Yesterday we learned of something truly awful that took place at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital in New York City. Someone stole a “significant number” (in the thousands) of medical face masks intended for hospital personnel and patients. Given the critical shortage of PPE of this type and the swelling number of coronavirus patients seeking medical care at all city hospitals, it was a pretty despicable thing to do. Dr. Laura Forese, the executive vice president and COO of the hospital made a public appearance, chastizing the thief or thieves and reminding them of what is at stake. It’s also the reason that they now keep their supplies under lock and key.

There was just one problem with the story. One day later, it was revealed that the “stolen” masks hadn’t been stolen at all. They were simply misplaced and had since been located. (NY Post)

A large stash of desperately needed medical safety gear was thought to have been stolen from a Brooklyn hospital amid the spiraling coronavirus crisis — but was later discovered on the premises, The Post has learned.

Dr. Laura Forese, executive vice president and COO of the NewYork-Presbyterian network, told staffers during a video briefing on Tuesday about the “theft at Brooklyn Methodist of a significant amount of PPE [personal protective equipment]” a day earlier, according to a source familiar with the matter…

But on Wednesday, NewYork-Presbyterian told The Post that nothing had actually been stolen.

“After looking into this further, it was determined that this equipment was still on the premises and available for use by our clinical teams,” the hospital said.

Oops.

To be fair to Dr. Forese, it was an easy conclusion to jump to if a huge shipment of masks suddenly turned up missing from where you expected. Store shelves are empty of such masks virtually everywhere and there are huge delays in commercial orders for them from manufacturers. Such personal protective equipment is showing up on the black market, on E-Bay and everywhere else. And a hospital would be a logical target for aspiring thieves.

Having worked in a few large industrial centers in my time, I can assure you that both large items and large shipments of smaller items can and do go “missing” on a regular basis, only to later be found having been delivered to the wrong department or stored temporarily in an unexpected location. (I have a story I may share with all of you at some point about a massive radar antenna weighing well over a ton that went missing for nearly a year at the San Diego shipyards, only to show up in a storage building designated for vehicle parts.)

But this story shouldn’t lead us to believe that the crime suspected in this incident isn’t happening for real in other locations. Police in Portland, Oregon recently arrested a man accused of stealing thousands of similar masks from a nonprofit center that were supposed to be donated to local hospital workers. And that theft was very real.

Police say they’ve arrested a man accused of trying to sell thousands of face masks intended for hospital workers that were stolen earlier this month.

Police said someone took 20 to 25 cases of N95 respirator masks from The ReBuilding Center in North Portland on March 7. Each case contained 400 masks.

Protective equipment for health workers is in short supply amid the coronavirus pandemic. The nonprofit ReBuilding Center diverts building materials from landfills and offers them for reuse. Court records indicate the victim of the theft was Mercy Corps, another Portland nonprofit.

Fortunately, the thief, in that case, wasn’t terribly bright because the masks wound up on Craigslist almost immediately. Someone from The rebuilding Center contacted the seller and made arrangements to meet them to complete the transaction. The cops showed up instead and the alleged thief was taken into custody.

Just goes to show you that even the pandemic we are facing doesn’t bring everyone together in a spirit of defeating this virus. There are still plenty of scumbags out there willing to make a buck at the expense of others, even if it costs people their lives.