27 February, 2021

Inside the Chaotic, Cutthroat Gray Market for N95 Masks


Artenstein, the chief physician executive at Baystate Health, emailed me in October. “There still does not appear to be a coherent, organized and effective (or even potentially effective) plan by this administration to address ongoing P.P.E. shortages,” he wrote. “Trust me, these are ongoing and will only worsen.” Indeed, the shortages have already returned as the virus runs rampant through the country once again. And though President-elect Biden has promised to federalize the P.P.E. response, he won’t take office until January 20 — and the current administration’s obstruction of the transfer of power may further delay his ability to act quickly.

The primary wisdom that Artenstein was providing to other health care systems asking for his advice was to not expect substantial help from the federal government. In a sense, the Trump administration had achieved one of its goals: It had trained Americans not to rely on it. Everyone was on his or her own in this pandemic, Artenstein warned. That was the American way.