California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on July 22 the purchase of 420 million new protective face masks as part of an aggressive action to bend the curve of COVID-19 cases heading into fall.
The state is currently burning through 46 million masks each month, Newsom said in a press conference. To keep up with demand, he announced a new contract with BYD (Build Your Dreams) Auto Co. for another 120 million N95 respirator masks and 300 million more looser-fitting surgical masks.
Newsom previously entered into a controversial $1 billion contract with China-based BYD in April that included 300 million N95 respirator masks at $3.30 each. According to the new July 17 contract, unit costs have fallen to $2.13 per N95 mask and 20 cents per surgical mask. The total deal is worth over $315 million.
Newsom has also directed the state to maintain a stockpile of 100 million N95 masks and 200 million surgical masks to make sure critical sectors remain prepared to combat surging COVID-19 cases.
“Providing front-line workers the protective equipment they need is critical to our state’s response to COVID-19,” Newsom said in a press release.
“Securing a reliable supply chain of PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] allows us to distribute millions of protective masks to our essential workforce while preserving millions more in our state’s stockpile for future use.”
After a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, California has now surpassed New York and leads the nation. The California Department of Public Health confirmed 12,040 new cases and 157 new deaths on July 23—bringing the state’s total confirmed cases to 425,616, with 8,027 fatalities.
Newsom highlighted the upward trend as “a sober reminder of why we are taking things as seriously as we are.”
Newsom received scrutiny from lawmakers for the state’s first mask deal with BYD when he delayed releasing the initial contract, and the delivered masks twice failed to receive the required National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) certification by set deadlines before finally receiving approval.
The state has already distributed over 86 million N95 respirator masks and nearly 300 million surgical masks to front-line responders including health care workers and nursing home attendants, according to the press release.