Three million surgical masks arrived in California as the first shipment in a major deal cut by Gov. Gavin Newsom for 200 million masks a month to protect health care and other workers from the coronavirus.
The weekend shipment came as part of a $104.7 million payment under a $1 billion contract with Chinese company BYD, Newsom’s finance director, Keely Bosler, wrote in a letter to lawmakers shared Monday.
Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the state Office of Emergency Services, couldn’t immediately give a breakdown of how many N95 and surgical masks the state will initially receive. But he said more surgical masks are on the way and the tighter-fitting N95 masks are expected to arrive the first week in May.
The state already paid $495 million up front for the contract with BYD, an electric vehicle maker that recently transitioned to making masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. The rest of the money will be paid between mid-May and late June as shipments come in, Bosler wrote.
The company has offices and a factory in Southern California, though the masks are being made in China. California expects to get 500 million masks over 2.5 months under the contract, and about 75% will be N95 masks.
The coronavirus is primarily spread through coughs and sneezes. For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.
California has so far distributed 43.6 million N95 masks and 4 million surgical masks across the state, according to a state website that tracks the distribution of personal protective gear by county.
Newsom announced the deal for 200 million masks a month in early April, though he provided limited details. His administration has so far declined to make public the contract with BYD, saying the supply could be jeopardized if too many details are revealed.
The governor does not need legislative approval to spend the $104.7 million, which comes from the state’s Disaster Assistance Emergency Operations Account. But his administration’s notification letter to lawmakers came as those lawmakers push him for more transparency and for him to include them in his coronavirus spending decisions.