California signs $1 billion deal with Chinese automaker to supply masks


BYD Motors

The Chinese automaker BYD is providing surgical-grade masks for California.

In order to satisfy high demands for medical equipment in California, the governor’s Office of Emergency Services has recently imported 3 million surgical masks from China.

The masks are a part of a signed confidential agreement between BYD (Build Your Dreams), a Chinese automaker, and the state of California. BYD has said to supply the state with hundreds of millions of both N95 and surgical masks. According to estimates, the deal is worth $1 billion, being paid for by California taxpayers.

Due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, states are in high demand for medical equipment to help treat patients of the virus. Until recently, top medical groups are in short supply, relying on donations and limited stockpiles for essential equipment. California Governor Gavin Newsom believes that serious action should be taken to help workers on the frontline.

“What we need to do from my humble perspective is listen to the public health experts,” Newsom said. “Listen closely to what is happening with the virus, look at data, make the data make the determination to guide our decision making.”

Though Newsom’s spirit and actions are well-intentioned, the agreement does raise suspicion. Primarily, BYD is known as an automotive company and has no experience making medical-grade masks. Some question Newsom’s deal, as the supplier has no reliable record of delivering such products.

BYD’s strong R&D capabilities, combined with its manufacturing facilities and creativity, have enabled the firm to mass-produce quality masks in a short period of time, reflecting its unremitting efforts throughout the pandemic.”

— BYD Motors Inc.

“BYD’s mission is to change the world by creating a complete, clean-energy ecosystem that reduces the world’s reliance on petroleum,” said BYD in a corporate statement. “BYD’s innovative products are leaders in multiple sectors, including battery-electric automobiles, buses, medium and heavy-duty trucks and forklifts.”

Also, the promised quantities seem out of proportion to manufacture reasonably. The agreement promises California with 200 million surgical masks a month, requiring 6 to 7 million masks developed a day. 3M, the top N95 mask producer, only produces 100 million masks a month in comparison. However, BYD believes it can achieve even higher productivity.

“We are up to 25 million masks a day,” said Frank Girardot, the BYD director. “It is something that makes sense.”

Although the deal may not be perfect, it shows that California is attempting to take steps forward during the pandemic and act on the problems of the people. Aside from BYD’s unreliability as a medical supplier, Newsom sees this opportunity as a way to act fast and effectively. Unfortunately, the original intent of his efforts is lost in the deal’s flaws and criticisms.

“We can undo our progress in a very short period of time. What has taken us almost two months to produce, in terms of getting stable numbers, could be unwound in a period of just a week or two,” said Newsom, when speaking about his efforts on dealing with COVID-19.

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