SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As coronavirus rapidly spreads across California, one of the main global concerns was the availability of personal protective equipment [PPE] for healthcare workers on the front lines.
Since states in America have largely had to turn to the open market to get masks and other supplies, many state governments have had to compete with one another for PPE. In some cases, states are even competing with the federal government.
In response, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday a number of updates in California relating to PPE.
"In an effort not to play small ball, in an effort to really organize, to meet the audacious goal that we have of over 500 million PPE… we decided to retool our efforts, refocus on our vendors, refocus on our supply chain," Newsom said.
One such initiative involves California repurposing masks.
Mark Ghilarducci, Director of California Office of Emergency Services [CalOES], also announced bold new technology, designed to reuse N95 masks.
Through Patel, a defense contracting company in the U.S., up to 80,000 N95 masks per day will be sterilized and reprocessed to make them like new again. This can be done up to 20 times on the same mask, creating a more sustainable method to providing PPE.
Ghilarducci says this new technology will be in California within the next week.
Another initiative involves California leveraging its immense buying power.
Ghilarducci announced that California has partnered with powerful non-government organizations (NGOs) to create "pipelines" for medical supplies. Additionally, the state is working with large vendors through direct contracts to provide more PPE, while also continuing to collaborate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
These new partnerships could bring in as many as 200 million masks a month to the state of California.
"What we try to do is really step back and look at this in a much more strategic way, and we really leaned on the way we actually manage major events that happen in California–like when we have wildfires or earthquakes–when we've got limited kinds of resources," Ghilarducci said.
To date, California has secured and distributed over 41.5 million masks. However, the state is pushing further.
California has formally submitted a request to the federal government to invest over 1.4 billion dollars from the Disaster Response Emergency Operations account into PPE of all kinds.
Many of the incoming supplies will be first distributed to hotspot areas in California, including Sacramento County.
"This is closely coordinated with where we're seeing the greatest number of cases that we have to manage," Ghilarducci said. "That doesn't mean that the rest of our counties in the state are not gonna get PPE. That means that through the process of the national program, through the leveraging of these big pharmaceutical corporations, hospitals that normally procure through those entities will be able to get PPE."
According to Newsom, the new strategy is "bearing fruit."
The state is hoping to distribute at a scale that wasn't possible before. Additionally, with California's leveraging power in the supply chain, the state will likely go on to provide other states and even other countries with additional supplies.
"We are not just looking at supplies in a scarce marketplace where it's a zero-sum game," Newsom said. "We are being additive. We're looking at where [we] have an abundancy in this respect, increasing supply, and how California in this case has been a catalyst to increase supply. That will not only avail itself to the state of California, but more broadly across this country and potentially other parts of the globe."
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