Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 15, 2020

Lawsuit filed for information on substandard masks IHS purchased from former White House chief of staff

Indian Health Service purchased 1 million substandard surgical masks from a former White House chief of staff, and now won't respond to a freedom of information request

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

A lawsuit has been filed to obtain the records related to the substandard surgical masks that were purchased by Indian Health Service from a former White House chief of staff.

Indian Health Service failed to respond to a Freedom of Information request for records from Judicial Watch, which has now filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the records.

Indian Health Service reported in June that  five IHS employees died during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"For the Navajo Area Office we mourn the loss of Thomas Etsitty our friend and security guard," Navajo IHS said.

Valerina Singer was one of the Navajo nurses who died from coronavirus. She was a longtime nurse at the Kayenta Health Center on the Navajo Nation in Arizona and was treating COVID-19 patients.

EMTs working in Navajo facilities and transporting patients by emergency life flights also died from the coronavirus. 

Jose Luis M. Gomez, Pascua Yaqui, an EMT paramedic who transported COVID-19 patients in Alamo, N.M., on the  Navajo Nation, died on May 10.

Glovis Foster, a Navao flight medic, at San Juan Regional Hospital in the border town of Farmington, N.M., also died of coronavirus after transporting coronavirus patients.

Meanwhile, probes continue regarding both the coronavirus test kits and the masks.

N95 is the U.S. standard, and the KN95 is the China standard. IHS purchase based KN95 masks.

Judicial Watch said, We have sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for records related to the contract given to former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Zach Fuentes for KN95 masks, reportedly made in China, in April 2020 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (No. 1:20-cv-02147))."

Judicial Watch sued after IHS, a component of HHS, failed to respond to its May 28, 2020, FOIA request for:

All records regarding the contract awarded to Zach Fuentes LLC for KN95 masks in April 2020. For purposes of clarification, this contract is identified by award number FY20-NAO-COVID19-PROFORMA KN95.

This request includes, but is not limited to, any and all records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the Indian Health Service and any other individual or entity regarding the contract, as well as any and all records regarding the quality of the masks provided under the contract.

Judicial Watch said the Indian Health Service acknowledged in May as reported by ProPublica, that “1 million respirator masks it purchased from a former Trump White House official do not meet Food and Drug Administration standards for ‘use in healthcare settings by health care providers.’”

The Indian Health Service awarded a $3 million contract for the masks to an 11-day-old company run by former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Zach Fuentes, Judicial Watch reports.

ProPublica reports that Indian Health Service confirmed that the masks sold by Fuentes were “made by four Chinese manufacturers and are registered in an FDA database, but have not met the regulator’s relaxed pandemic-era standards for Chinese-made masks.”

Since that time, IHS has received more than $1 billion in CARES Act funds. Masks and protective gear for IHS hospitals are among the items approved for purchase with these federal funds.

Coronavirus cases are increasing in Indian country.

Indian Health Service reports a sharp increase in coronavirus cases in the past month in Phoenix and Oklahoma service areas. White Mountain Apache in Arizona has reported a large number of cases.

The IHS report on Aug. 13 below shows that Navajo IHS, with the most cases, has fallen behind in administering COVID-19 tests, when compared to the Alaska and Oklahoma IHS areas.

The report shows recent increases in cases in the Great Plains, Billings and Alaska IHS areas. Tucson IHS, which serves Tohono O'odham and Pascua Yaqui, also shows cases are currently increasing.

More at Censored News:

The White House purchased coronavirus tests in a secretive purchase using an United Arab Emirates company. The tests were delivered to the UAE embassy in DC. The coronavirus tests made in China were sent to states and were contaminated and unusable, Vanity Fair reveals.
Read article at Censored News

Lost on the Frontlines
Honoring 922 medical staff who died of coronavirus caring for others with the virus, among them Roberta Gruber, a home health aide at Soaring Eagles Home Health Care in Gallup, NM; Lilly Tsosie, phlebotomist at San Juan Medical Center in Farmington, NM; and Barbara Bedonie, certified aide at Cedar Ridge Inn nursing home in Farmington, N.M. 'Lost on the Frontlines.'
Read article

Article copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News, may not be republished without permission.

No comments: