FBI orders $40,000 in hand sanitizer and face masks in case of a coronavirus pandemic in US

Travelers arrive at LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal wearing medical masks for protection against the novel coronavirus outbreak on February 2, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

David McNew | Getty Images

The FBI has ordered $40,000 of hand sanitizer and face masks “in case the coronavirus becomes a pandemic in the United States,” according to the acquisition document.

The bureau’s “pandemic preparedness” supply order includes face masks from manufacturer 3M and disinfectants, including hand sanitizer, from PDI Healthcare, the document said. In its purchase order, the FBI said it needs to have those items on hand if the coronavirus, or COVID-19, spreads widely throughout the U.S. The Trump administration last month declared the virus a public health emergency, but it’s not yet met world health officials’ designation of a global pandemic that spreads widely throughout the world.

The masks and disinfectants “are to be stored throughout the country for distribution in the event of a declared pandemic,” according to the document, which was signed Friday and gave the companies a week to fulfill the order. The document said the “supplies are for the FBI strategic stockpile for Pandemic Preparedness.”

Kill time

The FBI said PDI’s hand sanitizer and wipes were necessary because they kill “54 different microorganisms within 1 minute so this disinfectant has both speed and power.” The agency justified awarding the contract to PDI without a formal competitive bidding process because “they are the number one rated in healthcare because of this kill time.”

While $40,000 is just a fraction of the size of other contracts the FBI awards to private companies, the order illustrates how U.S. agencies are preparing for the possibility that the coronavirus could reach pandemic levels in the U.S.

“The FBI has actively been monitoring the coronavirus outbreak in Asia and is taking preemptive measures by procuring these items … now,” the document reads. The agency added that it is making the purchase directly from manufacturers 3M and PDI rather than through retailers “because of the urgency of this request.”

There are currently 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The supplies are required to be delivered by Friday, according to the document. A spokeswoman for the FBI didn’t immediately comment on the contract or the agency’s preparedness for an outbreak in the U.S.

Representatives from 3M and PDI Healthcare did not respond to requests for comment.

“Due to the human life and safety component, these two brands are required,” the acquisition order said. “The items being requested will be critical to keeping employees safe should a coronavirus pandemic take place.”

‘Open up your pandemic plans’

Last week, CDC official Anne Schuchat urged U.S. hospitals to prepare for an outbreak in the U.S.

“This is the time to open up your pandemic plans and see that things are in order,” she said. “For instance,” she continued, health-care providers need to plan for a “surge at a hospital, the ability to provide personal protective equipment for your workforce, the administrative controls and so forth that you might put place in a health care setting.”

While the COVID-19 virus has spread to more than two dozen countries, international health officials say there’s little transmission on local levels outside of China right now. But they’ve warned that could quickly change. The virus is proving to be far more contagious than the flu, having spread from 300 people in mid-January to more than 75,700 as of Thursday morning.

The U.S. government has taken nearly unprecedented measures to prevent spread. Trump administration officials announced last month that the U.S. would deny entry to foreign nationals who traveled in China within the two weeks prior to the announcement, aside from the immediate family of U.S. citizens.

Also last month, officials from the CDC issued the first U.S. federal quarantine order since the Smallpox outbreak in the 1960s. Almost 1,000 Americans have faced or are currently facing mandatory 14-day quarantines.

“We are preparing as if this were the next pandemic but we are hopeful still that this is not and will not be the case,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said after announcing the first quarantine order. “This is a very serious public health situation and CDC and federal government has and will continue to take aggressive action to protect the public.”

— CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace contributed to this report.

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