The first coronavirus case in the United States was registered on 21 January, after the patient returned from the Chinese city of Wuhan. One day later the Trump administration reportedly received an offer from private medical supply company Prestige Ameritech.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) ignored the possibility to get millions of N-95 protective face masks into the US in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Washington Post.

As early as 22 January, Michael Bowen, an owner of private medical supply company Prestige Ameritech, suggested that he could help the nation amid shrinking domestic production of medical masks, writing an email to the DHHS.

"We still have four like-new N95 manufacturing lines. Reactivating these machines would be very difficult and very expensive but could be achieved in a dire situation", his letter said.

He received an answer on the same day, from Laura Wolf, the director of the agency’s Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection, and she did not show much enthusiasm for the offer.

"I don’t believe we as an government are anywhere near answering those questions for you yet", she responded.

Bowen persisted, citing his company's capability to produce additional 1.7 million N-95 masks per week and stressing that he had received a lot of demand from other foreign customers. The talks were reportedly fruitless and his offer was not accepted.

The exchange is mentioned in a whistleblower complaint filed by former director of the US federal vaccine agency, Dr. Rick Bright, who was removed from his position and given a "less impactful job" for reasons Bright and his team of lawyers believe to be political.

Bowen's offer came months before the US shortage of necessary personal protective equipment became obvious. Reports emerged that to obtain medical supplies, the Trump administration seized humanitarian aid meant for other countries, a claim that was denied by the White House.