New York reportedly paid $69 million for ventilators to an engineer with no background in medical supplies at the recommendation of the White House coronavirus task force
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The state of New York paid $69 million for ventilators to a man with no background in medical supplies after he tweeted at President Donald Trump and the White House coronavirus task force recommended him as a vendor, BuzzFeed News reported.
The ventilators never arrived.
On March 27, as the novel coronavirus was surging through the US, Trump urged Ford and General Motors on Twitter to “START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!”
Yaron Oren-Pines, an electrical engineer in Silicon Valley, replied to the tweet, writing, “We can supply ICU Ventilators, invasive and noninvasive. Have someone call me URGENT.”
BuzzFeed reported that New York shelled out $69.1 million to Oren-Pines three days later for 1,450 ventilators — at least three times the standard price for high-end models. A state official told the outlet that New York entered into the contract with Oren-Pines at the “direct recommendation” of the White House coronavirus task force. It’s unclear who specifically authorized the recommendation.
New York has since terminated the contract and the state is reportedly trying to recover its money. Reached for comment by phone, Oren-Pines told BuzzFeed News, “Neither me nor my company is providing any comment on this,” and hung up.
In a similar case earlier this month, the Trump administration awarded a $55 million contract to a bankrupt company with no employees for N95 masks, according to The Washington Post.
The company, Panthera Worldwide LLC, describes itself as a tactical training company for the US military and other government agencies, has no record of producing medical supplies or equipment, The Post said.
Panthera’s parent company filed for bankruptcy protection last fall, and one of its owners last year said it’d had no employees since May 2018, The Post reported, citing sworn testimony. It is no longer listed as an LLC in Virginia, where its main office is located, after fees went unpaid.
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, a pandemic last month.
As of Wednesday evening, 3,187,030 people around the world have been infected, and the US is the global epicenter of the outbreak, with more than one million confirmed cases.
New York is the hardest-hit state, with 305,024 cases and 23,317 deaths. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday that the death rate in the state has been flat for three consecutive days but that the number of new hospital admissions for the coronavirus increased slightly for the first time in 12 days.