U.S. sent millions of face masks to China early this year, ignoring pandemic warning signs

U.S. manufacturers shipped millions of dollars’ worth of face masks and other protective medical equipment to China in January and February with encouragement from the federal government, a Washington Post review of economic data and internal government documents has found. The move underscores the Trump administration’s failure to recognize and prepare for the growing pandemic threat.

In those two months, the value of protective masks and related items exported from the United States to China grew more than 1,000 percent compared with the same time last year — from $1.4 million to about $17.6 million, according to a Post analysis of customs categories which, according to research by Public Citizen, contain key PPE. Similarly, shipments of ventilators and protective garments jumped by triple digits.

“Instead of taking steps to prepare, they ignored the advice of one expert after another,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.). “People right now, as we speak, are dying because there have been inadequate supplies of PPE.”