Masks returned to makeshift hospital after official’s arrest

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NEWS ORLEANS (AP) — Eighty respirator masks taken by a high-ranking official were returned to a makeshift hospital for recovering coronavirus patients in New Orleans, authorities said.

Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s director of public safety, Vernon Giscombe, was arrested over the weekend and charged with one count of malfeasance in office, The Times-Picayune/ The New Orleans Advocate reported. The convention center is being used as a facility for coronavirus patients so hospitals aren’t overrun.

Louisiana Department of Public Safety Officer Donald Furca told investigators he saw a woman leave the convention center and place two boxes in Giscombe’s car about 11:20 p.m. Friday.

When Furca questioned Giscombe and the woman, Giscombe said he told the woman to bring the boxes, which contained 40 N95 masks for medical workers staffing the 1,000-bed hospital inside the convention center.

Giscombe later admitted he had a different employee bring him two additional boxes containing 40 masks, Louisiana State Police said.

Troopers recovered the masks at Giscombe’s home and Orleans Parish Magistrate Court Commissioner Brigid Collins ordered them to be returned to the hospital.

Neither of the employees will face charges, police said.

It’s unclear what Giscombe wanted to do with the masks. People elsewhere have been caught trying to sell the masks at inflated prices.

It’s also unclear whether he had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

N95 masks filter out about 95% of liquid and airborne particles and are recommended for frontline health care workers who expect to encounter particularly infectious diseases.

Hospitals have reported a shortage of the masks as COVID-19 has spread.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

By: Associated Press

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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