Prestige Ameritech is one of the largest surgical mask manufacturers in the United States. When the first case of coronavirus detected on January 22nd in the US, Michael Bowen, Vice President of Prestige Ameritech, offered help to ramp up the production of N95 masks for fellow Americans. At the same time, his company has received a high number of orders from various countries, including faraway nations like Hong Kong. The medical supply firm headed by Mike Bowen can produce 1.7 million N95 masks a week. Keeping in mind the acute shortage of medical masks in the country, which can lead to national security, Bowen wished to help the government before they asked for it.
To take things further, Bowen wrote an email to top-level administrators who work in the Department of Health and Human Services. “Our firm Prestige Ameritech still has four new N95 manufacturing units. Reactivating them would be a tough task ahead and is costly but can be done in critical situations like the present one.” However, the response over several days from the senior officials, including the assistant secretary for preparedness and emergency response, Rober Kadlec was not as expected by Mike Bowen. Their reactions made him believe that the administration was of no interest in his offer. One of the responses was from Laura Wolf, the Director of the agency’s Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection was - “I don’t believe we as a government is nowhere close to answering those questions on masks for you yet.”
Bowen’s story was described briefly in a whistleblower complaint filed by Rick Bright, who is the former Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. In his complaint, Bright accused that Bowen was ill-treated by Kadlec and other officials involved in the administration. Bowen’s letters were given less priority reassigning them to lower post officials as they tried to prioritize science and safety over political expediency. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rejected the allegations made by Rick Bright. However, Bowen’s story doesn’t end there. In his letter, Bowen cleared most of the points - “I’m not here to make profits from government business. My phone has been ringing even now for the orders. I’m just pointing out that I can help and safeguard our infrastructure if at all things go really bad. I’m a patriot first and businessman next.” The government didn’t take up the offer from Bower to date. If the production was started, his company could have produced more than 7 million masks a month by now. But they stand dormant presently. Responding to the article, former Vice President Joe Biden posted “this is inexcusable” from his official Twitter handle.Dr. Dhillon Randeep
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