LEESBURG, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - Documents FOX 5 obtained as part of a public records request from Loudoun County show local governments across Northern Virginia were willing to pay nearly six times the normal price of N95 masks, a choice emblematic of the difficult market for protective equipment.
Under the umbrella of the regional emergency management coalition, the Northern Virginia Emergency Response System, counties and cities across the region worked to procure nearly 350,000 N95 masks from a Dutch supplier between March 31 and mid-April.
The order eventually got canceled, sources say, because the Federal Emergency Management Agency bought the materials from the same supplier.
But the emails reveal as quickly as local governments chased down leads on masks and other protective equipment used in the battle against coronavirus, other entities would swipe up the supplies.
Eventually, NVERS settled on the Dutch supplier, which was charging $5.56 per mask, nearly six times the price in January or February.
In emails among procurement employees in the local governments, officials described the bidding process by saying "the entire market is upended" and "we've never seen anything like this."
One email reads, "we are competing with every other local jurisdiction, states and the federal government."
Loudoun County was due to get 30,000 masks, while Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington counties also stood to receive tens of thousands of N95 masks from the canceled order, which would have totaled nearly $2 million.
Leo Friedman, CEO of iPromo.com, which sources promotional products, says the price of masks and other supplies has skyrocketed.
"Mask prices have Uberized. It's supply and demand. It's surge pricing and at the end of the day if you look at the materials of the masks it shouldn't be more than a dollar," said Friedman.
Juli Briskman, Loudoun County supervisor for the Algonkian District, said she has been advocating for the Trump administration to require new American companies to make PPE under the Defense Production Act
"I think the price is indicative of the situation that we've been having across the country," said Briskman.