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New York State Will Offer Residents Free ‘NYS Clean’ Hand Sanitizer Made With Prison Labor
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 2: New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference on the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in New York on March 2, 2020 in New York City. A female health worker in her 30s who had traveled in Iran contracted the virus and is now isolated at home with symptoms of COVID-19, but is not in serious condition. Cuomo said in a statement that the patient "has been in a controlled situation since arriving to New York." (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)
Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that New York will be “producing and distributing its own hand sanitizer free of charge amid reports of price gouging of the product on the market as the coronavirus outbreak spreads globally and across the U.S.,” according to The Hill.

Americans are racing to stock up on supplies like toilet paper, paper towels, and hand sanitizer, clearing store shelves and forcing some retailers to institute purchasing quotas. In New York, where there is an active coronavirus outbreak — 142 confirmed cases, including 17 in Manhattan — the state government says its concerned both with availability of sanitizer and the possibility that retailers and second hand sellers might try to “price gouge” desperate residents.

As a way of ensuring a steady supply of sanitizer is available to New Yorkers, Cuomo announced that the New York-manufactured product will be distributed by the gallon to anyone who wants it, though it will be shipped directly to government agencies, schools, prisons, the metropolitan public transit authority, and other state and city agencies first before it becomes available to the public.

“We’re introducing NYS clean hand sanitizer, made conveniently by the state of New York,” Cuomo announced at a press conference Monday. “This is a superior product to products now on the market.”

The New York sanitizer also has a “very nice floral bouquet,” per the governor. It contains 75% alcohol, 15% more than is required for the sanitizer to work effectively.

Cuomo clearly meant the announcement as a shot across the bow of major retailers operating within the state of New York: “To Purell, and Mr. Amazon and Mr. eBay, if you continue the price gouging, we will introduce our product, which is superior to your product,” Cuomo added. “And you don’t even have the floral bouquet, so stop price gouging.”

Amazon, responding to those concerns, halted non-affiliated sales of coronavirus-related products on its website, and is allowing only major retailers and Amazon-approved sellers (not second-hand sellers) while monitoring the price of face masks, hand sanitizer, and other items in short supply across the site. The company said in a statement made late Sunday that around 2,500 sellers are now banned over price gouging.

Internet auction site eBay also says its “taking significant measures to block or quickly remove items” that make “false health claims,” though it says it cannot enforce local laws and regulations.

Purell makes a wholesale product and is not responsible for second-hand sellers’ exploitative tactics. GOJO, Purell’s parent company, does not do direct sales and, instead, refers even commercial consumers to local distributors.

New York’s hand sanitizer, while free, does come at a price. According to The Verge, the state can afford to give away the hand sanitizer at below market value because it utilizes prison labor.

“NYS Clean” sanitizer “will be made by inmates at correctional facilities,” per Cuomo’s office.

“The hand sanitizer will be made by Corcraft, the part of the state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision that manufactures products from license plates to pillows,” the Verge added. “The average wage at these facilities was about $0.65 / hour in 2015–2016.”


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