Loudoun County is among the localities that have ordered personal protective equipment only to see it taken upon arrival by the federal government.
County Administrator Tim Hemstreet said Loudoun has been bundling its orders with other localities to buy directly from manufacturers. But, he said, that can also attract attention, and he confirmed at a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday that an order headed for Loudoun had been intercepted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Upon arrival, the federal agency outbid the localities for the personal protective equipment and took it, he said.
“FEMA took those supplies and then distributed them into their regular pipeline, and then we were told to go and meet our PPE needs through our state process,” Hemstreet said.
But Hemstreet said the county is not out any money—as a general rule, for those orders, Loudoun County government pays on delivery.
For most protective equipment, and at the rate it’s being used, the county is adequately supplied for now, he said. But that could change the county’s public safety agencies start using it more quickly, and the government is already running short of gowns.
“For our public safety agencies, Fire-Rescue and the Sheriff’s Office, prior to the start of the pandemic, had on hand sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment,” Hemstreet said. “The only equipment that we’re really kind of worried about and short on are gowns. We do have several weeks of supply for several other pieces of equipment that we have.”
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) was among the supervisors who expressed frustration.
“The federal government and President Trump continues to tell states and localities they are responsible for getting their own PPE, and they undermine that by outbidding and taking PPE,” Randall said. “… How about they get a daggone federal response that actually works instead of this piecemeal approach that they have that actually is not helping anyone, and outbidding localities? That is infuriating.”