After their proven incompetence of the fulfillment of the first N95 masks’ order, the BYD, a Chinese automobile company was given a second chance by the state of California to adhere to the contract that was originally meant to be completed on the 30th of April. According to the contract, California had commissioned approximately 300 million masks, which encompassed both the N95 respirators and the surgical masks to be delivered before April 30th, of which, most of the surgical masks had even been delivered without a hitch.
The real problem aroused when the BYD failed to get the approval certificate for the N95 respirators by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). As a result of this, the company had to refund half the amount of the $247.5 million down payment.
During recent days, California state has been facing severe problems related to wildfires. These wildfires have destroyed the backbone of the economy and the state is facing continuous problems. The PPEs manufacturing companies have been under pressure to manufacture the N95s and other surgical masks. The farmworker is facing the problems, doctors are under continuous pressure, and all of the state departments are under immense pressure.
What does exactly an extension mean for BYD?
The agreement, which was then later amended included a new deadline for the BYD to meet and get the N95’s certified. They had until May 12th to get the N95 respirators approved by NIOSH. The amended also gave the state the option to either annul the order or demand the BYD to refund the remaining $247.5 million of the state’s down payment. The state later granted them another extension of until the 12th of June to get the N95 certified.
If the order is indeed fulfilled, then the state of California will go on to purchase 150 million more masks from the company that will be scheduled to deliver within the next 2 months. Since the state isn’t looking forward to dealing with any more obstacles in this procession, they were smart enough to vividly mention in the amendment that if the company was again unable to procure an approval certificate for N95 this time round, the company will have no choice but to refund the remaining payment to the state.
The controversy surrounding the cost:
Personal Protective Equipment such as a face mask had become a valuable commodity in the early days of the pandemic. The prices of these masks especially the coveted N95 was soaring the sky and couldn’t be found anywhere easily and every country including the United States was struggling to get their hands on protective gear for their health care workers and citizens. The BYD, which is in actuality an automobile company, resorted to making protective equipment for the people as it was considered to be the need of the time.
The BYD got in contract with the state of California as they had placed an order of more than 200 million masks, but the BYD was soon found to be under fire as they were alleged to be charging a much higher amount for a single piece of the N95 mask than it was found to be fit, as per Raymond Associates (a United States consulting firm), the BYD was charging 30 cents extra for each N95 mask. He even further went on to say that a more suitable option for acquiring protective gear would be if the state set up its factories and employed its people there. The Government even has enough money to execute this idea.
It was also brought to question, that why the state hadn’t chosen a company such as 3M for this contract even though 3M was manufacturing N95 respirators at a much more economical price than the Chinese company BYD but a spokesperson for BYD, Frank Girardot was quick to defend BYD by stating that their cost was fair as it covered many more factors besides that of the material used in the N95 and the cost of labors such as the cost of delivery, taxes and even the duty fee.
The question that a lot of the people have in their minds is that whether it was worth spending so much of the states’ money on protective equipment only when all of the sectors are in dire need of financial support. It’s not like PPE and N95 respirators are the only thing that is going to save the life of people as other necessary medical equipment is just as much important as. But the current situation of the country is only a further indication that the spread is not going to be controlled overnight and if this expenditure could in any way alter the situation for better than it is all worth it.
Not to forget that all the states are sort of at war with each other to get their hands on the PPE in large amounts and curb the spread. The economy has also experienced a major decline and the re-opening of businesses would be the only option that the country has to recover its remaining shred of the economy. The only way to go about that would that all the citizens must follow the Standard Operating Procedures and wear a mask, otherwise both the economy and mortality rate is going to face a major blow.