In what may be one of the biggest Amazon orders of all time, Forbes has uncovered a White House order for $12.8 million in infrared thermometers from Jeff Bezos’ business. And the government says it’s for preparations to reopen America after COVID-19 brought the country’s economy to a standstill.
The contract was handed out by one of the U.S. agencies central to the COVID-19 response, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But a reading of the contract description shows the payment was made to Amazon following an order straight from President Trump’s office.
The description reads: “White house order for infrared thermometers in support of the COVID pandemic. A purchase card is being used as a payment mechanism.”
A FEMA spokesperson confirmed that the Amazon purchase was in preparation for Trump’s grand reopening of the country. “The White House Task Force has a broad plan to begin setting conditions for enabling the careful and deliberate opening of America,” a spokesperson said when asked about the nature of the Amazon contract.
“As a means to this end, acquisition of key components to ensure our nation’s economic and critical infrastructure sectors can return to work is to secure equipment that will help ensure opening America is conducted with appropriate means to monitor and conduct surveillance of various workplaces and infrastructure settings.”
The FEMA spokesperson added that the thermometers will be sent to a warehouse “where they will be stored until further distribution is determined.”
The White House hadn’t provided comment at the time of publication. Amazon said it couldn’t comment on the details of customer contract.
The urgency with which the Trump administration has sought to open up America has caused some concern. Whilst the president has encouraged states to open up and given out guidelines on how to do so safely, more than 80% of Americans want to wait until it’s safe, according to a survey in mid-April. To ease those concerns, Trump has plans to send all 50 states COVID-19 tests for at least 2% of their populations. The Amazon purchase of thermometers appears to be part of the same effort.
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