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Houston, Harris County officials dealing with a bidding war for healthcare supplies

HOUSTON – “I will tell you it is becoming a bidding war on the private marketplace,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said during a press conference on the coronavirus relief in the city.

Turner is not the only one talking about the bidding war that has emerged.

In an MSNBC interview Friday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo detailed the challenges his state is facing.

“I’m trying to buy a ventilator, so is Illinois, California, Texas, and we’re literally bidding each other up,” Cuomo said.

The demand to buy supplies involves every state, city, and major corporation, not to mention the general public.

KPRC 2 Investigates discovered last week Houston-based Auctions Unlimited selling masks on their online auction.

The site has been selling masks online for a few years before the coronavirus pandemic caused a shortage of medical supplies.

Owner Tim Worstell made one thing very clear: “I’m just a bidding platform for people that want to liquidate their surplus assets.”

The Office of the Texas Attorney General filed a lawsuit Thursday against Auctions Unlimited for price gouging.

Since the start of the global healthcare emergency, the Texas Attorney General said they received more than 3,000 complaints regarding price gouging.

Worstell, a fourth-generation auctioneer, told KPRC 2 that he has checked with the Texas Attorney General office to ensure the auctions were compliant.

Former Harris County Judge and KPRC 2 political analyst Ed Emmett asked why auction sites are even operational at the moment. He said he believes protections items on auction sites will soon be listed as critical supplies.

Emmett said he expects the government to step in.

“Emergency supplies are going have to be provided at a national level or at least a statewide level,” he said.