‘We need to spend what we need, but also need what we spend. And the Governor just went way beyond that this week without any oversight.’
On Tuesday, Governor Newsom announced that California would spend $990 million to receive 200 million medical masks a month as part of a $1.4 Billion Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) spending order in order to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus.
$990 million on masks
As part of the deal, California has signed contracts to receive 150 million N95 masks each month, with another 50 million surgical masks. The $990 million would only go to buying masks as long as they are needed. If the funding runs out and more masks are still needed, another spending order will need to be issued. Any extra masks will be sent to other Western states as needed.
Governor Newsom made the deals during the week to combat a growing need for masks in California and to secure them before other states and countries sign similar deals. California has only received 1 million N95 masks from the U.S. Government, despite over 41 million N95 having been used in California so far. The dwindling number of masks on the open market was also cited by Newsom as a reason for Tuesday’s deal.
“We’ve been competing against other states, against other nations, against our own federal government for PPE — coveralls, masks, shields, N95 masks — and we’re not waiting around any longer. And we’re no longer interested in the progress that we were seeing in the past,” said Governor Newsom in an MSNBC interview. “In the last 48 hours we have secured — through a consortia of nonprofits and a manufacturer here in the state of California — upwards of 200 million masks on a monthly basis that we’re confident we can supply the needs of the state of California, potentially the needs of other western states.”
Besides the $1 billion going to protective masks, $400 million more will go to other needed PPE, such as gloves and disinfectant.
Criticism over the $1.4 billion deal
While the orders have secured the needs for healthcare workers and other essential workers for the next several months, the total cost, as well as California securing the masks before other areas more in need, have brought some criticism.
“We had to give a $495 million down payment to these companies,” noted healthcare fiscal expert Dr. Lloyd McGraw. “That’s a lot, especially considering that California may not need all of them.”
“It’s good that hospital workers and others who need them get them. No one is ever going to deny that, especially with the pandemic. But this is a huge commitment California just put itself on the line for. And now we’re also holding any extra masks over other states. I mean, who will decide who gets them, especially as things peak?”
“We just gave ventilators to New York despite there being some need here. Will we do the same for others now with masks, even if hospitals need them?”
“Again, I’m glad California is going to get these, but they might have gone too much all in on this a a preventive measure. That’s over a billion dollars signed away like that, and we’re not even in mid-April. We should be more discretionary with spending in case anything big comes up later. It’s a rainy day right now, but it’s also still early in the year. Wildfires are a growing concern, and other disasters could still happen.”
“We need to spend what we need, but also need what we spend. And the Governor just went way beyond that this week without any oversight.”
The masks are expected to arrive in California in only a few weeks time. While the masks themselves will be made in China, they will come through a Californian manufacturer.