Newsom announces $1.4B for additional personal protective equipment

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California is preparing to spend $1.4 billion on personal protective equipment, such as face masks for front-line workers in the fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday. 

The governor said during a live briefing the safety gear would go to medical professionals and other at-risk workers, such as those at grocery stores, DMV locations or conducting wellness checks.  

“We made a big, bold bet on a new strategy,” said Newsom, adding that “we were able to formally submit to the Legislature (Tuesday), a request to utilize ($495 million) from our disaster response Emergency Operations account that would allow us to invest over $1.4 billion into PPE of all stripes.” 

Additional PPE would add to the 41.5 million N95 masks California has already been able to obtain, 1 million of which came from the Strategic National Stockpile, said Newsom. 

The purchase plan, according to Mark Ghilarducci, the state’s Office of Emergency Management director, would consist of working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and private sector companies. 

Ghilarducci said California would use technology, starting next week, that could sterilize up to 80,000 used N95 respirators per day for continued usage of up to 20 times. 

These efforts come as the statewide number of COVID-19 cases reached 16,957 and 442 deaths, according to Newsom. Of the confirmed cases, 1,154 patients were in ICU and 2,714 received treatment in hospitals. 

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