Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday he is extending a mask contract with China-based BYD, which would bring in 120 million more N95 masks and 300 million paper surgical masks in order to bolster California’s supply. The state will pay BYD motors $315 million under the new so-called “bridge contract.”
The initial billion-dollar contract with BYD, signed April 7th, was criticized for a lack of transparency and delayed certification. The state paid $3.30 per N95 mask and 55 cents per surgical mask under that deal.
Compared to the first contract, this week’s deal is much more economical for the Newsom administration; prices have fallen to $2.13 per N95 and 20 cents per surgical mask.
The announcement came the same day California shattered its daily record for new coronavirus cases, reporting 12,807 new infections. On Tuesday, the state surpassed New York for the state with the most confirmed cases, which now top 413,000.
During a coronavirus briefing, Newsom also said the state will open up future personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts for bidding in an effort to get better pricing.
Lawmakers were critical of the first deal. Many said it lacked transparency and complained they did not get an adequate heads-up before Newsom announced it on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show.
The N95 masks were also delayed because BYD twice failed to meet safety certification deadlines.
Other deals have not panned out. Newsom said despite an agreement for 12.4 million masks with the manufacturing company 3M, the state has received only a fraction of the promised supply
“We made that commitment many months ago,” he said. “Only 290,000 of those masks have been delivered.”
Despite those hiccups, Newsom —standing in front of boxes of masks in a Sacramento warehouse — argued his administration’s aggressive attempt to acquire PPE has been successful enough that the state could afford to send 17 million masks to other states, including neighboring Arizona and Nevada.
But as the coronavirus continues to spread through California and stretches some hospitals thin, the state must constantly work to bring in more PPE, he said.
“We need to go big and continue to be bold in our procurement,” Newsom said, echoing his initial announcement of the BYD Deal in April.
“When you're burning through 46 million masks every month, you start to do the math,” he said.
The state largely sends PPE to counties to distribute to frontline workers, but it also sends the goods directly to hospitals and other essential businesses.
Months into the pandemic, Newsom said the state would take advantage of scaled-up manufacturing of masks and other PPE by opening future contracts to bids.
“We’re in a different environment and we’re going to demand more competitive pricing,” he said. “We want more competitive bids. We want more California-based manufacturers.
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