There are many questions surrounding the government reaction to the COVID-19 virus, and especially in California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom just approved spending $1 Billion of taxpayers funds on masks from Chinese company BYD.
Following many requests from healthcare workers who report shortages of masks, gowns, and other personal protective equipment at hospitals throughout the country, the first company the Food and Drug Administration approved for this emergency delivery of respirator masks during the coronavirus outbreak, has actually been prohibited by law from bidding for some federal contracts in the United States, according to Vice News.
“Although the company, BYD, is a major global player in the electric vehicle and lithium battery markets, it also has glaring red flags on its record, experts warn, including a history of supplying allegedly faulty products to the U.S., ties to the Chinese military and Communist Party, and possible links to forced labor.”
“BYD also has no history of making personal protective equipment, and yet days after the FDA approval, it secured a $1 billion deal to supply masks to California,” Vice reported.
Despite that Coronavirus numbers are dropping in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom made deals last week to purchase $1 Billion worth of masks from BYD, “to combat a growing need for masks in California and to secure them before other states and countries sign similar deals,” California Globe reported. 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.”
The question is “why did he make this deal?” There have been 600 coronavirus attributed deaths in California out of a population of 40 million. “The number of COVID-19 deaths have been much less than the 750 total deaths that occur every day in California,” Epidemiologists James Enstrom and Jeffrey Klausner said in an Orange County Register article Sunday. “Furthermore, there is evidence that there have been substantial reductions in the deaths due to seasonal flu, pneumonia and accidents because of the almost exclusive focus on COVID-19 and the current statewide lockdown.”
“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 Gov. 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.”
Is Newsom going to broker the masks to other states? Why does California need 200 million masks a month, especially with the illness trends dropping?
However, a serious issue is California lawmakers have not only not seen details of the $1 Billion contracts signed by Gov. Newsom with BYD, they sent him a letter late last week demanding details of the agreement, saying there has been too little transparency in spending those massive taxpayer dollars.
Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, sent the tersely worded letter to Newsom’s Director of Finance. Mitchell asked for details on the contract Newsom signed to buy 200 million masks per month through an American subsidiary of the Chinese company, KTLA reported.
“Newsom said ‘the vast majority’ of the masks will be of the N95 variety, but it’s unclear whether BYD will supply that type of respirator, or its own KN95s,” Vice reported. “Soon after the FDA cleared the way for imports of KN95s, California also relaxed its standards, noting KN95 masks ‘may be an acceptable alternative’ due to the supply shortage, the state’s Department of Health records show.”
Why did California relaxed its standards of the masks?
There are many red flags with BYD’s multiple levels of owners and ownership registries, and the company’s subsidiaries that should make policy makers and consumers concerned.
Vice reported that Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) helped draft legislation last year which bans federal funds from being used to buy BYD electric buses effective immediately in Washington, D.C., and starting in 2022 for the rest of the country. “President Donald Trump signed the ban into law in December as part of a defense authorization bill. However, Garamendi wasn’t aware BYD had been granted special FDA approval to import masks until VICE News told him.”
There have been many lawsuits against BYD by other U.S. states, Vice reported, as well as human rights violations. At a time when China is under the microscope for allowing the spread of the Wuhan flu, the FDA authorizing BYD’s sale of masks appears questionable given that the FDA didn’t vet the BYD companies, as well as knowing they have turned a blind eye to human rights violations.
Notably, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought 25% of the automaker’s Hong Kong-traded stock in 2008, and Buffett remains a major player in the company, Vice reported.
There are more questions than answers at this point, with a legislative hearing coming this Thursday. California Globe will follow up.