Governor Signs Bill to Create a Reliable Supply of Personal Protective Equipment to Save Lives

September 30, 2020

Sacramento, CA – SB 275, a bill authored by Dr. Richard Pan, pediatrician and State Senator representing the Sacramento region and Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), which would ensure California is ready on day one of a future pandemic or other public health crises with a strong stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE), was signed by the Governor today.

“The COVID-19 crisis exposed a failure to adequately plan and prepare for a pandemic. Inadequate supplies of unexpired personal protective equipment (PPE) including respirators, surgical masks, and gowns left essential workers vulnerable to infection and death in hospitals and nursing homes,” said Dr. Richard Pan, pediatrician and State Senator representing the Sacramento region. “Passage of SB 275 prepares us for the next pandemic and makes certain that the heroes that provide care for our sick, seniors and children will have the life-saving equipment they require so they can care for us and our loved ones.”

“As a joint author of SB 275, I am delighted that Governor Newsom signed this critical measure that will ensure that doctors, nurses, housekeeping/environmental services employees and other essential workers have the protective gear they need to do their jobs and keep both themselves and others safe.  I appreciate the hard work of Senator Pan—as well as SEIU and other supporters across the state and nation—for their commitment to accomplishing this vital effort. Among the many things that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is that California must be better prepared to face the evolving challenges and needs of future crises. SB 275 helps to more effectively prepare California, as well as protect the working people that are on the front lines of providing medical and other services to our families, friends and loved ones across the state,” said Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino).

Senate Bill 275 is a worker-led, first in the nation pandemic preparation legislation that will save lives the next time we face a crisis like COVID-19.  The measure is sponsored by the Service Employees International Union in California and will establish a PPE stockpile at the Department of Public Health. This bill will also require healthcare providers, such as hospitals and nursing homes, to maintain their own stockpile of PPE to make sure front line health care workers have a supply of PPE to get them through the early stages of a pandemic when there is a sudden surge of demand for respirators and other protective equipment.  

Specifically, the bill will:

  • Require the state to create a stockpile for use during an emergency, within one year of the effective date of this bill, to provide a supply of PPE for all healthcare workers, as well as essential employees such as school employees, workers at detention facilities, childcare workers, in-home support providers, and other workers that are determined to be essential during an emergency;
  • Require healthcare providers such as hospitals, nursing homes, and large medical systems to maintain an inventory of PPE for all their workers sufficient for 45 days of pandemic-level consumption, effective on January 1, 2023; and,
  • Establishes an advisory committee to make recommendations for establishing the state stockpile, as well as make recommendations as to the type and level of PPE supplies necessary to meet the 45-day surge consumption level for hospitals and other employers.

In California, inadequate supplies of unexpired PPE such as respirators, surgical masks, and gowns left healthcare workers vulnerable to infection and death while working in hospitals and nursing homes, with some resorting to using homemade PPE like bandanas and trash bags. The lack of PPE also put patients—who come into contact with potentially exposed workers or through cross contamination through reuse of PPE—at risk.

Because communities of color are overrepresented in essential jobs in nursing, nursing homes and janitorial fields, adequate supplies of PPE are needed to address the disproportionately higher death toll from COVID-19 in African American, Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities.

The many attempts to obtain PPE during the current crisis exposed major flaws in supply chains. By definition, a pandemic affects multiple parts of the world at once, which makes it especially difficult to procure needed supplies in the midst of an emergency. Overseas suppliers diverted PPE to their own countries’ needs or stopped production due to the effects of the pandemic. While some domestic suppliers quickly ramped up manufacturing, shortages have persisted and led to dramatic cost increases with some markups reaching over 6,000%.

 

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