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The Justice Department on Monday said it is tracking any anticompetitive actions in connection with the manufacturing, distribution or sale of face masks, respirators and diagnostic tests after reports that the products are being hoarded in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Face masks and other protective equipment may be vital to healthcare workers as they treat patients infected with coronavirus.
"The Department of Justice stands ready to make sure that bad actors do not take advantage of emergency response efforts, healthcare providers, or the American people during this crucial time," Attorney General William P. Barr said. "I am committed to ensuring that the department's resources are available to combat any wrongdoing and protect the public."
Hospitals have reported theft of face masks and respirators in high-traffic areas. Online vendors of hand sanitizer reportedly hiked up prices of the product, normally less than $4 for a 10 oz. bottle to upwards of $200.
Individuals or companies that fix prices or rig bids for personal health protection equipment such as sterile gloves and face masks could face criminal prosecution, according to DOJ.
The department will also be on high alert to ensure collusive prices did not affect the sale of protective equipment and tests to federal, state and local agencies.