California buys more masks, but some workers still lack

California will spend $315 million more to buy hundreds of millions of protective masks as the coronavirus continues to ravage the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday.

Posted: Jul 23, 2020 2:23 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California will spend $315 million more to buy hundreds of millions of protective masks as the coronavirus continues to ravage the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday.

A new contract with Chinese manufacturer BYD will provide the state 120 million tight-fighting N95 respirator masks and 300 million looser-fitting surgical masks. California’s initial $1 billion deal with the company was signed in April.

The state will soon launch a competitive bidding process to try to get even more protective masks at lower prices and is encouraging manufacturers within the state to make equipment, Newsom said.

“We decided to think outside the box, we did something big and bold,” he said during a news conference at a Sacramento warehouse where masks and other protective equipment are stored.

But as he promoted California’s efforts, he acknowledged the equipment isn’t always getting to the workers who need it, something he blamed on hospital systems and local governments. The administration will be “more aggressive” in making sure masks reach front -line workers, Newsom said.

“We’re sending out an unprecedented number of masks. I want to make sure those masks are going to our front line workers,” Newsom said, after sharing that the president of the National Union of Health Care Workers, Sal Rosselli, told him some health workers were getting only two to three N95 masks per week. The California Nurses Association wants nurses to get a new N95 mask for every patient.

“We have got to address that issue and I want folks to know we’re not naive to that challenge and that responsibility,” Newsom said.

Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, could not immediately provide more details on what the state will do to improve distribution to workers.

Carmela Coyle, president of the California Hospital Association, challenged Newsom’s comments suggesting hospitals are not appropriately distributing equipment to workers. Hospitals can only access the state supply of protective equipment through local and regional coordinators and only when the hospital is dangerously low on gear, she said. Hospitals distribute gear based on guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she said.

“The governor’s comments today suggested a new and different standard,” she said.

The state has shipped 86.4 million N95 masks and nearly 300 million surgical masks, according to the administration. Those masks have gone to hospital workers, first responders, farm and factory workers, and nursing home employees. The state also has given away 17 million surgical masks to other states, including Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Alaska, Newsom said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which Newsom praised as a “spectacular” partner, provided tens of millions of masks for sale to hospitals and others in need of them, he said.

The state gives masks to county emergency offices and medical coordinators as well as to associations that represent certain industries of essential workers, such as dentists or grocery workers, Ferguson said. Counties submit requests to the state for equipment as they need it and then distribute it to hospitals.

Stephanie Roberson, head of government relations for the California Nurses Association, said many hospitals aren’t adequately distributing personal protective equipment to nurses.

“We can have a steady flow of all the PPE that the contracts provide, but if the employers aren’t actually giving the nurses the masks that they need ... then it doesn’t matter how much supply that we get,” she said.

The deal with BYD was California’s most high-profile deal for protective equipment since the pandemic began. Newsom announced the deal for 200 million masks per month in mid-April, but twice the first shipment of N95 masks failed to meet a deadline for federal certification.

BYD refunded California about a quarter-billion dollars at one point before the masks earned federal approval in June and began shipping.

California paid $3.30 per mask for N95s and 55 cents per surgical mask under the old contract. The new extension is $2.13 and 20 cents, respectively.

The state also has entered into multiple other contracts for protective equipment, including more masks, gowns, gloves and safety goggles.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 526685

Reported Deaths: 9684
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1958054760
Riverside38487738
Orange38066653
San Bernardino34017477
San Diego30516568
Kern21228151
Fresno15759138
San Joaquin11958180
Alameda11909192
Santa Clara11030192
Sacramento10174148
Tulare9990193
Imperial9513232
Stanislaus9308135
Contra Costa8176131
Ventura787777
San Francisco698961
Santa Barbara652663
San Mateo5744120
Marin518076
Monterey496634
Merced458351
Kings445356
Solano380638
Sonoma311339
Madera211432
Placer195318
San Luis Obispo192616
Yolo161442
Santa Cruz11964
Butte10128
Napa9809
Sutter8406
San Benito6894
El Dorado6681
Lassen6320
Yuba5334
Shasta3979
Colusa3574
Mendocino3419
Glenn3321
Nevada3161
Tehama2461
Humboldt2454
Lake2111
Mono1451
Tuolumne1442
Amador1370
Calaveras1361
Del Norte900
Siskiyou880
Inyo641
Mariposa592
Plumas330
Trinity50
Modoc40
Sierra30
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Chico
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Oroville
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Paradise
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Chester
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Willows
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It was a slightly cooler day for northern California today, but a more significant cooling is arriving tomorrow, along with a slight chance for showers and thunderstorms over the mountains of northwest California.
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