SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered the release of up to half of California's emergency stockpile of specialized masks so that health care providers can protect patients and themselves from the spread of the H1N1 swine flu.
The move, announced Thursday, comes as part of the state's ongoing emergency response efforts to combat the spread of the virus.
The governor has directed the Department of Public Health to issue the N-95 masks to hospitals and clinics.
"California has been preparing for a flu crisis for a very long time and with this action we are taking another step to ensure that we are able to fight the spread of flu pandemics like H1N1," Schwarzenegger said in a prepared statement.
In 2006, California purchased a stockpile of 51 million N-95 respirators, which are face masks designed to prevent the passage of airborne germs.
A California nurses' union threatened to strike earlier this week in part because they said they had poor access to the masks.
Nurses have complained about poor access to the N-95 maskes ever since a 51-year-old Sacramento nurse died in July after contracting swine flu.