U.S. exported millions in masks and ventilators ahead of the coronavirus crisis

U.S. exports of surgical masks, ventilators and other personal protective gear to China skyrocketed in January and February, when the coronavirus was wreaking havoc in the country where it began and as U.S. intelligence agencies warned it would soon spread.

American companies sold more than $17.5 million worth of face masks, more than $13.6 million in surgical garments and more than $27.2 million in ventilators to China during the first two months of the year, far exceeding that of any other similar period in the past decade, according to the most recent foreign trade data available from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

The White House and congressional intelligence committees were briefed on the scope and threat of the coronavirus in January and February, but President Donald Trump has not stopped exports of key medical equipment – a move taken by at least 54 other countries so far. 

The data show how U.S. manufacturers stepped up production and cleared out inventory to supply protective medical equipment to China for weeks, even as the threat of the coronavirus became clear. The CDC reported its first case in the United States on Jan. 20. Within the next two weeks, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health.

USA Today