|Staff Reporter |||Apr 09, 2020 03:50 PM EDT|
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The state of California is looking to allocate almost $1 billion per month to purchase up to 200 million masks to improve its arsenal of protective health gear in the global fight against the coronavirus.
The amount is intended to turn California into a provider of medical supplies to other American states dealing with supply shortages. Governor Gavin Newsom made the disclosure late Tuesday on MSNBC Show With Rachel Maddow.
The governor disclosed on Wednesday that the state had the highest daily spike in coronavirus fatalities with 68. Newsom added that through contracts with a consortium of non-profit organizations and a California-based manufacturer, he was able to acquire 150 million N95, and 50 million surgical masks.
The National Association of Manufacturers said that California has the highest manufacturing capability in any US territory, with over 35,000 businesses making $316 billion in revenue in 2018.
The governor also approved an executive order Tuesday that suspends sales tax on public health equipment sold to California. According to Newsom, they have had "enough" of the situation: "Let's use the buying power of the state of California," he said. The state is considering to sp$990 million in federal funds on protective equipment, according to a letter sent to legislators late Tuesday by Newsom's Department of Finance.
The state must make a downpayment of 50 percent of the said amount - $495 million - over the next 48 hours, Finance Director Keely Martin Bosler said.
State officials have signed a deal with BYD North America to supply the masks, selected in part because it is a subsidiary of a China-based corporation, where much of the personal protective equipment is made.
The order will include some 150 million N95 masks, which are engineered to protect against airborne particles. The remaining 50 million masks are surgical masks designed to protect against fluids.
California's mask reserve would exceed what even the government could do on a per capita basis. The administration of US President Donald Trump is working to obtain 600 million N95 masks for the whole country.
Meanwhile, New York City is using the federal government's supply of 1 million masks just to get through the weekend, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft sent his sports club's private plane to China to pick up another 1.2 million masks.
California is hastily preparing the first set of payment with $188 million in calamity funding authorized by state lawmakers before they left Sacramento last month, plus $307 million in federal disaster funds. It's not yet clear where the extra $495 million will be sourced from.
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