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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Flexport, a freight logistics "unicorn," has successfully sourced and is buying around $1.4 million of face masks and other medical protective equipment that was requested by San Francisco's Department of Public Health.

Why it matters: Many U.S. hospitals and other health care facilities still do not have what they need to keep their employees safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

San Francisco officials told Flexport what they needed and the company managed to source its first batch of equipment via a supplier network in China (including via SF Express — the FedEx of China, which has been a Flexport investor since 2018).

Among the initial batch of items being delivered today are 60,000 surgical masks, 34,000 gloves, 2,000 surgical gowns and 50 thermometers.

  • The company is unprofitable but chose to pay for the goods anyway. CEO Ryan Petersen also reached out to friends for donations to help cover the cost and received $1 million from Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham.

From Petersen's email:

"To buy everything on the city's list will cost $1.4 million. Yes, you read that right. We can equip the entire workforce of the city's front-line healthcare workers with all the protective armor they need as they go into battle with COVID for just $1.4 million. If we don't do it, however, I am convinced that nobody will do it. Flexport will get this done, we will get it done fast, and we will donate the goods to the city. I could ask for payment, and I believe they would pay, but I won't be a war profiteer. The city needs to conserve its money for the long fight that lies ahead."

Petersen also tells Axios that his company has stopped providing its services for any container carrying medical protective equipment unless the shipper can prove that it's destined for a health care facility. This comes amidst reports of supply hoarding and price gouging.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Rahm Emanuel floated for Transportation secretary

Rahm Emanuel. Photo: Joshua Lott for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President-elect Biden is strongly considering Rahm Emanuel to run the Department of Transportation, weighing the former Chicago mayor’s experience on infrastructure spending against concerns from progressives over his policing record.

Why it matters: The DOT could effectively become the new Commerce Department, as infrastructure spending, smart cities construction and the rollout of drone-delivery programs take on increasing economic weight.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden turns to experienced hands for White House economic team

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Biden plans to announce Cecilia Rouse and Brian Deese as part of his economic team and Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: These are experienced hands. Unveiling a diverse group of advisers also may draw attention away from a selection of Deese to run the National Economic Council. Some progressives have criticized his work at BlackRock, the world's largest asset management firm.

Biden taps former Obama communications director for press secretary

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Jen Psaki, who previously served as Obama's communications director, will serve as President-elect Joe Biden's press secretary, the transition team announced Sunday.

The big picture: All of the top aides in Biden's communication staff will be women, per the Washington Post, which first reported Psaki's appointment.