WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has signed an executive order making it a crime to excessively stockpile personal protective equipment that is needed by medical personnel fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
Attorney General William Barr says the Justice Department has already launched investigations into people who are hoarding supplies and price gouging. He says investigators will go after people who are “hoarding these goods on an industrial scale for the purpose of manipulating the market.”
The executive order allows the president to designate some items as “scarce.”
Barr says, "If you are sitting on a warehouse with surgical masks, you will be hearing a knock on your door.”
No specific items have been identified yet and the Justice Department will work with Health and Human Services to enforce the president’s order.
The Department of Justice is going to be working with the Department of Health and Human Services to identify cases where a hoarding may be impeding the supply of health and medical resources needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After just a few weeks, the U.S. has more than 43,000 cases and more than 500 deaths.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough.
For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness including pneumonia, but the vast majority of people recover from the virus.
The pandemic has infected more than 374,000 people and killed over 16,000.
More than 100,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.