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Published on April 12, 2020 5:38 AM

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WILMINGTON, Del - The coronavirus presented DuPont, the chemical giant based here, with a golden business opportunity.

In January, the company convened a crisis team to figure out how to ramp up global production of personal protective equipment, including different suits made out of its patented Tyvek material, which a distributor can sell between $5 to $15 apiece to hospitals. By early March, as the disease began to spread in the United States, DuPont's factory in Richmond, Virginia, was cranking out Tyvek.

It usually takes up to three months to ship the material to Vietnam, where it is sewn into body suits, and get it back. When the federal government offered to pay for chartered flights to reduce the round trip for 750,000 items to 10 days, DuPont agreed.

Then DuPont sold the suits to a third-party distributor for approximately $4 each, according to company documents it provided to NBC News, and that distributor sold them to the government. The company initially declined to say how much the Department of Health and Human Services paid for 750,000 suits, and it refused to identify the third-party distributor or say how much that firm charged the federal government.

"We actually helped get raw materials supplied from Richmond, Virginia, and we flew that s--- to Vietnam, all so that DuPont could sell us" their products, said a senior federal official involved in the coronavirus effort.

President Donald Trump and HHS, which announced the deal last week, described the arrangement as one in a string of massive ...