41M gloves sitting in warehouses were just freed by N.J. congressman to protect against coronavirus

March 27, 2020

By Jonathan D. Salant | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

While health care workers have been running short of protective equipment as they fight the coronavirus, more than 41 million medical gloves produced for a New Jersey-based company have been held in warehouses under federal government order since last September.

Until now.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agreed to release the gloves imported by Ansell Ltd., whose American headquarters are located in Iselin. The gloves had been stored at facilities in Baltimore and Oakland, California, while the agency looked at whether they had been made with slave labor in Malaysia.

The charges turned out to be baseless, and Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th Dist., intervened at the company’s request and started calling federal officials to get the gloves shipped out.

He was able to pry them loose.

“At this critical juncture, when supplies of personal protective equipment are scarce and medical professionals need to be safeguarded from the coronavirus, we needed to act quickly and work with federal officials,” said Smith, who has led efforts in Congress to fight human trafficking and slavery worldwide.

“It took dozens of calls to numerous different federal officials,” he said. “But it was just too important to give up on.”

Ansell’s chief commercial officer for the Americas, Renae Leary, credited Smith with getting the gloves released from the warehouses and to the company’s customers.

“During this pandemic, the lack of personal protective equipment for front-line medical workers is putting their lives and the lives of patients at risk,” Leary said.

Smith said the gloves were being shipped immediately.

And some of them were heading for New Jersey, which now has more coronavirus victims than any other state but New York, he said.

New Jersey has received around 223,000 of the 2.9 million gloves it has asked the federal government to provide.

Read online here.