1st shipment arrives in L.A.’s deal to acquire 24 million masks for medical workers

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Thousands of N95 masks arrived in Los Angeles Thursday as the first shipment in a deal cut by the city to acquire 24 million masks for health care workers and first responders.

The first 100,000 masks will mostly be distributed to hospitals, with 10,000 set aside for L.A. Fire Department personnel. The city is footing the bill for the first delivery, Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a Facebook Live broadcast from the warehouse where the masks are being held.

As inventory grows, those who need N95s will be able to acquire them at the cost the city paid, 79 cents each plus tax. That would put the deal’s total price tag around $20.5 million.

Another 200,000 masks are expected to arrive next month, followed by 500,000 more in July. Garcetti said the goal is to ramp up to a monthly delivery of 1.2 million by December.

The medical-grade masks are being produced by Honeywell at the company’s Ontario plant, Garcetti said.

The coronavirus is primarily spread through coughs and sneezes. N95 masks filters out 95% of airborne particles, including those too small to be blocked by regular masks.

Anyone who isn’t a front-line worker should stick with non-medical face coverings as shortages continue, Garcetti said.

Currently, about 85% of hospitals countywide have sufficient N95s for the next few weeks. But L.A. County is most in need of gowns, with only about half of hospitals having enough on hand, according to the county Department of Public Health

The Honeywell deal is part of an initiative — dubbed Logistics Victory L.A., or LoVLA — to help the city build its own stockpile of medical gear. The hope is local hospitals can avoid dealing with several vendors, competing with others across the globe to get the best price.

“The city has incredible purchasing power, so we put that to use by buying in bulk at a low price point,” Garcetti said.

Port of L.A. Executive Director Gene Seroka, who Garcetti’s named chief logistics officer amid the pandemic, is leading LoVLA.

“We’re going to get it right,” he said at Thursday’s briefing. “We’re going to ask the hospitals for feedback on how we’re doing. And we’re going to sharpen our approach with each and every shipment.

Hospitals in need of masks can visit lovla.org to complete an intake form, and the city will call “immediately to start working out on your distinct distribution needs,” Seroka said.

The city will next start looking at acquiring isolation gowns, hair bonnets, foot coverings and a “whole litany of other products” still in short supply, according to Seroka.

L.A. is also working to provide essential workers with non-medical masks under its L.A. Protects initiative, and hundreds of local garment companies have been signed on to make them. Those interested in requesting protective gear can visit laprotects.org.

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