When their evidence is so easily dispelled, it becomes evidence of narrative-building.
Earlier today, I covered how the press has been wildly inaccurate on the claimed ventilator crisis and now we have the press trying to use medical masks as another cudgel against President Trump and the administration over its reaction to the coronavirus outbreak. It has been an ongoing narrative in the press that Trump was slothful in his response to the pandemic, costing untold lives, and now the Washington Post uses the tale of a lone company to ‘’prove’’ this is the case.
The problem: there is ample contradictory evidence to the claim.
The story woven by WaPo concerns a company called Prestige Ameritech, the maker of medical supplies. Its owner, Michael Bowen, had seen a market reaction to the coronavirus outbreak in other countries this past January and he reached out to the administration to see if they would be interested in his company adjusting its output to meet a need for more N95 medical masks. After his January 23, communication Bowen did not receive the expected reaction to his offer, and The Post cites this as evidence of administrative incompetence. ”The story of Bowen’s offer illustrates a missed opportunity in the early days of the pandemic,’’ writes Aaron Davis.
It has to be noted that this complaint involving Bowen springs from the whistleblower complaint drawn up by the deposed Dr. Rick Bright. He was the director of BARDA at Health and Human Services who is claiming to have been removed due to Trump’s strongarm tactics for his refusal to entertain hydroxychloroquine as a possible viral remedy. In fact, Bright had been primed for removal by the administration for a full year, and was cited as having failed to react for over a month to an announced health emergency declaration. This is not the lone reason to question the story of Prestige Ameritech.
At first blush, it appears a company offering a selfless task is ignored in those early-stage days, a company the owner describes as ”The last major domestic mask company.’’ The article holds this claim, even though deeper in the piece it acknowledges White House economic adviser Peter Navarro, a member of the coronavirus task force, declaring they had been working with companies Honeywell, Parkdale Mills, as well as the National Council of Textile Organizations. One other company of note was involved; The 3M Corporation.
The press has held that, from January through the next month, Trump and his administration had done little-to-no work towards addressing the viral outbreak. They rest on particular quotes as evidence of inactivity, all while ignoring actions that had taken place. The task force to face the pandemic was formed in January, soon followed by the travel ban from China. The press has also been boldly detailing the numerous instances when Trump supposedly ignored advisors on the situation in January, all while carefully eliding the fact that the meetings were actually taking place — in January.
One other facet has been mostly ignored. In looking into the output, you get a better story. If he was at full capacity, Bowen’s company was looking to produce up to 1.7 million masks a week. The 3M Company of Minnesota — yes, they are another domestic producer — has a larger workforce, working 24/7 on mask production. It has been able to manufacture 100 million masks monthly, greatly exceeding Bowen’s 7 million max output. Other large manufacturers are producing greater sums as well.
But what The Washington Post will not acknowledge is the Trump administration has been scaling back governmental restrictions and roadblocks on companies in order to free them up to produce needed products to meet the viral demand. In that March 25 Bloomberg article, it states that 3M has been scaling its production of the masks up for the past two months. Hold on, two months…well that would mean they began this production back in…January. In fact, there is this detail from the Bloomberg article:
Andrew Rehder, manager of 3M Co.’s respirator mask factory in Aberdeen, S.D., got the call from headquarters on Tuesday, Jan. 21. He gathered about 20 managers and supervisors into a conference room, where they sat, unworried, less than 6 feet apart. Rehder told them that a new virus was spreading rapidly in China and that 3M was expecting demand for protective gear to jump.
This predates Bowen’s outreach to the administration by days. Other companies as well were scaling up their output at around this same time. In the ensuing weeks, the administration had also loosened restrictions on other industries in order to provoke faster production of items like respirators and even permitting breweries and distilleries to produce sanitizer for healthcare workers and the elderly.
So, did one company face inactivity from the government after it endeavored to reach out? That is quite probably true, but it is hardly the gleaming example of administration inertia that WaPo insists is the case. It is but one company involved, and a smaller one at that, and it becoming bypassed as much larger corporations were able to generate a far greater capacity of the product at a faster rate is not the harbinger the Washington Post wants it to be in order to slam the administration.