The administration sees the lack of interest as proving its essential point: The masks truly are surplus, the likely consequence of massive federal spending that helped turn last year’s shortage into this year’s glut. The surplus masks recently were listed for sale by the Department of Correction on publicsurplus.com, an auction site used by state and municipal governments. The listing generated no serious offers from potential buyers, just questions and criticism from a Republican state senator. Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said she cannot believe the masks are unwanted.
Connecticut used about 1.8 million, but the rest sit in 450 cases on nine pallets in a New Britain warehouse. They contain 40,500 five-mask packs made by Hanesbrands Inc., a company briefly bullish on a PPE product line. Now, it can’t get rid of 202,500 reusable cloth masks, leftovers from a gift of 2 million face coverings procured by the federal government from the maker of Hanes underwear.
The boom has gone bust, Hanes no longer is in the PPE business, and the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont says the Hanes masks are unneeded by the state and unwanted by anyone else. Not so long ago, Connecticut couldn’t get masks at any price.
The masks came to Connecticut via FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, at no cost to the state, Reiss said. Connecticut offered to return the surplus to FEMA. “Using our unified command structure, we reached out to everybody — we asked municipalities, fire departments, police departments,” Reiss said. “And the consensus was everybody had masks, and they didn’t want them.”
Max Reiss, the governor’s communications director, said Somers is welcome to direct takers to the administration. It already has tried a more standard route, publicizing their availability through its emergency communication channels. (The masks are not currently listed on the auction site.) “Really?” she said. “I make five phone calls in less than 20 minutes, and I have towns and schools and Planned Parenthood and anyone else that would be willing to take them.”
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