Unionized health workers in California believe they have recovered 39 million stock N95 masks, The union mentionned Thursday, as health workers struggle to protect themselves from coronavirus infections.
Frontline healthcare workers have raised concerns about the lack of masks, said Dave Regan, president of the medical workers branch of the International Union of Service Employees in California.
“So we dove into the bottom of the pool and started making calls,” Regan told the Washington Post.
Union workers have found a company in Pennsylvania that supplies the masks, Regan said. The masks filter 95% of airborne particles.
The supplier ships worldwide, Regan said, and countries are hit early and hard by over-ordered coronavirus infections by the millions. Some orders have been canceled or returned, Regan said, leaving a surplus.
Regan declined to identify the company, fearing it would be overloaded with requests for support, and it was unclear why the seller hadn’t just offloaded the stock in recent weeks, as supply chains across the board nationwide were tense.
The supplier will sell masks directly to Kaiser Permanente, the State of California and others, Regan said.
But the Greater New York Hospital Association, one of the buyers referenced by SEIU, said they were not going ahead with the purchase after the limited company denied a request to visit the facility.
“It’s a red flag,” said a spokesperson for the association. But although the SEIU listed the association as a buyer, that was not the case Thursday night, said the spokesperson, who added that the association “ultimately did not see this as a credible opportunity. “
Sutter Health, a nonprofit health system, said SEIU helped them secure 2 million masks. “We will work to distribute these masks in our system where they are needed most,” said a spokesperson.
Riverside County, Calif., Another buyer listed by SEIU, said, “We are in the early stages of discussions with SEIU regarding a potential supplier.”
Regan recognizes the logistical challenges in unprecedented time.
He believes the masks are available for sale from a reputable company, which he says has been approved, and hopes the logistical headaches will resolve in the coming days.
“It’s the Wild West,” he says. “There are a lot of good actors and a lot of shady actors.”
This story has been updated.