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At least 15,800 essential workers would not have contracted COVID-19 if California had stockpiled enough masks and other protective equipment, while the state would have saved $93 million weekly on unemployment claims for out of work healthcare workers and avoided overpaying for supplies, according to a UC Berkeley Labor Center study released Wednesday.

The study urges California officials to stockpile masks, gowns, gloves and other equipment in the coming years to avoid shortages seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers currently pushing a bill that would create a state stockpile said the UC Berkeley report demonstrates that California needs a plan to ensure personal protective equipment shortages aren’t as sharply felt during a future healthcare crisis.

“What this UC Berkeley study shows is the cost of not being ready is very high,” said state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), who along with state Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) authored Senate Bill 275 to create a state stockpile of masks and other supplies.

“How do you say, looking at these numbers, we don’t need to do this?” Leyva said of the bill, which is making its way through the Legislature.

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