Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that California has secured a monthly supply of 200 million N95 respiratory and surgical masks to help protect healthcare workers and other essential personnel at the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
“We decided enough’s enough. Let’s use the power, the purchasing power of the state of California, as a nation-state,” Newsom told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. “We did just that. And in the next few weeks, we’re going to see supplies, at that level, into the state of California and potentially the opportunity to export some of those supplies to states in need.”
The masks are among the most coveted supplies needed in hospitals and medical facilities that are treating people infected with the coronavirus amid a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. They will come from a consortium of suppliers, including a California nonprofit, a California manufacturer with suppliers in Asia and from a company sterilizing used masks, according to Nathan Click, the governor’s spokesman.
The identities of those suppliers were not available Tuesday night, nor were details about the number of masks each would be supplying to the state.
The new effort will cost the state $495 million, according to a budget document that the Newsom administration submitted Tuesday night to the Legislature. In all, according to the document, the state has committed to purchasing medical safety gear that will cost $1.4 billion.
Click said delivery of the masks should begin in approximately a month, if not sooner.
Newsom on Tuesday issued an executive order to speed up the state’s ability to procure necessary medical supplies to fight COVID-19, including exempting suppliers from sales taxes for items purchased by the state.
The Legislature has also approved emergency spending of up to $1 billion on pandemic-related needs. To date, about $362 million of that amount has been spent.
Newsom on Tuesday said the state already has distributed 41.4 million N95 masks across California, including 1 million from the federal government. The Democratic governor has said California must be self-reliant and cannot depend on the federal government, which is receiving requests from states across the country, to supply live-saving respirators and other essential medical supplies.
“It’s not an indictment. It’s not a cheap shot. At the end of the day, they don’t have the masks at the national stockpile,” Newsom said Tuesday of the federal response. “We decided enough of the small ball. Let’s use our purchasing power. Let’s go at scale.”
Newsom said the consortium will supply at least 150 million N95 masks to be used by frontline healthcare providers as well as 50 million surgical masks.
The governor said California may share the cache of masks with other states that are also in need of medical supplies.
Times Staff Writer John Myers contributed to this report.