KEY POINTS

  • The world is facing a mask shortage as countries and states fight the coronavirus
  • California has secured a bulk order for 200 million masks per month at a cost of $1 billion
  • One month of CA masks is 1/3 the size of the entire order the federal government will get over 18 months

On Tuesday night’s episode of "The Rachel Maddow Show," California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, announced that he has “secured through a consortia of nonprofits, and a manufacturer here in the state of California upwards of 200 million masks on a monthly basis” to help fight the coronavirus.

The order will cost the state nearly $1 billion. This is a gigantic supply, especially when it is contrasted against the federal government’s recent order of 600 million N95 masks from 3M and Honeywell that will be fulfilled over the next 18 months. If California is able to make good on its promise, it will reach the federal government's figure in three to four months.

Additionally, Gov. Newsom promised that this order could also fill “potentially the need for other western states,” and this is where this story becomes even more significant. The governor continuously referred to California as a “nation-state” in his interview with Maddow, opening a window into how he and other California officials view the role of the world’s fifth-largest economy in this crisis. The state clearly views itself as a country more like France or Italy rather than a state like Washington or Colorado, and this move is a clear example of how California is attempting to supplant President Trump's leadership in this crisis, at least on the west coast.

In early March, Medicom COO Guillaume Laverdure told CNBC that “the [PPE] supply from China, which was servicing probably 80% or 90% of the U.S. market, disappeared. So the demand in the U.S. may have increased, but the fact that the supply was restricted created a huge amplification on the U.S. production capacity. So we’re looking at an order of magnitude between five and 10 times their relative demand.”

Gov. Newsom highlighted one of the central issues states are having securing personal protective equipment for medical professionals fighting the coronavirus, saying that “we've been competing against other states, against other nations, against our own federal government for PPE — coveralls, masks, shields, N95 masks — and we're not waiting around any longer.’’

By creating these consortia of nonprofits and a manufacturer, California is attempting to not only increase its stockpile of masks but to reduce the overall cost of PPE that has been rising as states and other countries compete for a dwindling supply.