Mother Jones

THE PRINCE OF PPE

On March 29, President Trump held a press briefing to tout Project Airbridge, his administration’s new effort to organize and pay for airlifts of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies from abroad. The first of the “big, great planes” from Asia had landed in New York that day, Trump said, bringing in “2 million masks and gowns, over 10 million gloves, and over 70,000 thermometers,” which would be sent to places across the country that had been hit hard by the coronavirus. He was joined at the podium by the heads of some of the country’s biggest medical supply distributors. “They’re big people,” Trump declared. Working with the White House, he said, they would deliver “record amounts of lifesaving equipment.”

The public-private partnership was overseen by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who set up a shadow coronavirus task force comprising volunteers that included his former roommate and people from private-equity companies and consulting firms like McKinsey. “Young geniuses,” Trump called them. Unhappy employees at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) dubbed them “the children.”

The companies involved in the short-lived Project Airbridge were some of the biggest in the world, including Cardinal Health, McKesson, Medline, and Henry Schein. They are the intermediaries of the health care system,

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