BYD, China's biggest electric vehicle maker, churns out face masks and disinfectant liquid on Feb 8. (Photo: China Daily)
LOS ANGELES - China's new energy vehicle manufacturer BYD Company will begin shipping 150 million N95 masks to the US state of California in the coming days for distribution to front-line medics, Governor Gavin Newsom's office said Monday.
The new batch of N95 masks is coming after 110 million surgical masks from BYD have already been distributed to help sectors in California reopen safely, according to a statement from the governor's office.
Newsom announced that California-based BYD North America has received certification from the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to produce N95 respirators for the state, the statement said.
N95 masks can provide medical workers with better protection than loose-fitting surgical masks from coronavirus infection. California and many other US states have faced a shortage of medical supplies, including N95 masks and surgical masks, since COVID-19 broke out in the country.
California Governor's Office of Emergency Services had made NIOSH certification of N95 masks an explicit requirement of the contract with BYD so that California's doctors, nurses and other front-line workers can be confident that the N95 masks they receive from the state are of the highest quality and meet federal health and safety standards.
"Providing California's front-line health care workers and responders the protective equipment they need is a critical part of our response to COVID-19. This new supply of N95 masks, as well as the surgical masks this contract has already provided, are game-changing and play a crucial role in our state's public safety and reopening strategy," said Newsom.
With the certification now in hand, as outlined in the contract, BYD will produce and ship 150 million N95 masks to the state for distribution to health care workers and those identified by health officials as requiring respirator-style masks, according to the statement.
"The first shipment of N95 masks produced as part of this contract are expected to arrive in the coming days. The contract will ensure that the state has a sufficient supply of masks going forward should there be need for them in the future," said the statement.
Newsom's office noted that California's contract with BYD is part of a wider effort by the state administration to prioritize the procurement and dispersal of critical personal protective equipment and other emergency assets and commodities to protect public health and safety.
California's agreement with BYD "has yielded more than 110 million surgical masks with more coming in nearly every day," the office said.
The most populous US state has distributed BYD surgical masks to aid workers across sectors of society, including 6,168,000 for agriculture, 2,578,000 for education, 3,238,000 for retail, 3,516,000 for non-emergency medical and 8,696,000 for public health.
California, one of the hardest-hit US states in the coronavirus pandemic, has reported 133,560 cases with 4,657 deaths as of Monday night, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.