California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new contract with the China-based BYD Company to produce 120 million N95 respirators and 300 million surgical masks as the state has surpassed New York with the most number of COVID-19 cases in the US.
The new contract is worth $315 million, reports Xinhua news agency. California will pay BYD $2.13s per N95 respirator and 20 cents per surgical mask, according to the new contract released by the governor's office on Wednesday.
Later in the day, Newsom confirmed in a news briefing that around 146 million N95 respirators and 193 million surgical masks have arrived as part of the original contract with BYD. Newsom 's administration has reportedly agreed on a contract with BYD to buy 500 million masks.
Providing Safety Equipment to Front-line Workers
The bridge contract signed with BYD will ensure California can provide PPE to its front-line workforce during the ongoing global pandemic at a competitive price and with an established and reliable partner, Newsom said in a statement.
"Providing front-line workers the protective equipment they need is critical to our state's response to COVID-19," the Governor said, adding that "securing a reliable supply chain of PPE allows us to distribute millions of protective masks to our essential workforce while preserving millions more in our state's stockpile for future use".
To date, California has distributed 86.4 million N95 respirators and 297 million surgical masks to Californians working on the front line against COVID-19, including to hospitals, emergency responders, farm and factory workers and nursing home workers, according to the Governor.
Newsom has directed the state's Department of Public Health and Office of Emergency Services to further increase the state's strategic stockpile to 100 million N95 respirators and 200 million surgical masks by early fall to account for the potential need given the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, according to the statement.
Highest Number of Cases in US
On Wednesday, California reported a record 12,807 new COVID-19 cases, taking its total cases to 413,576. The state now has the largest number of cases in the country, surpassing New York State. California public health officials also confirmed 115 new COVID-19 deaths in a daily update on Wednesday.
So far, a total of 7,870 deaths have been registered across the state. The seven-day average number of new cases is now 9,420 per day, with the average from the week prior being 8,309, according to the California Department of Public Health.
President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday that wearing a face mask when not able to socially distance is "Patriotic", a U-turn on his previous attitude toward masks. Despite the President's new stance, many netizens continue to oppose mask-wearing, with one commenting: "The mandating of a face mask is wrong, it should be a choice."