A shipment of personal protective equipment meant for a Massachusetts nonprofit that was missing for weeks has been located, but tracking it down was far from easy.
Northeast Arc, a Danvers-based nonprofit that serves people with disabilities, says it shows just how difficult it is to secure supplies during the pandemic.
The nonprofit partnered with 16 other organizations to order gear from a supplier in China back in March. Over the last few weeks, the gloves, masks and face shields started to arrive, but a shipment of 9,600 gowns was missing. The agency said the gowns valued at $87,000 arrived at customs in California, but after that, the tracking information disappeared.
"That's when the panic started to set in," said Tim Brown, Northeast Arc's director of innovation and strategy. "At that point, we were out of gowns. Our staff was using rain ponchos."
After hearing reports of personal protective equipment being confiscated or diverted for use in the national stockpile, they assumed they would never see the gowns.
The situation caught the attention of Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass. Shortly after he spoke with NBC10 Boston, Moulton was able to get in touch with customs and track down the shipment. The gowns are supposed to be delivered by next week, but Moulton said getting gear should not be this hard.
"It's absurd and unacceptable," Moulton said.
He is calling on President Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act so states do not have to do things like fly the New England Patriots' plane to China just to get equipment.
"That should've been Air Force One," Moulton said. "And it shouldn't be delivering things from Asia. It should be delivering things from right here in America."
More on coronavirus
The employees at Northeast Arc still do not know why there was such a delay on their shipment, but they hope the gowns arrive soon. Several state and local leaders heard about what happened and donated gear to hold them over until it is delivered. As businesses start reopening, they are already worried there will be even more competition for the supplies.
"This whole quest to get PPE is like going back to the Wild West," Brown said.