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California Gov. Issues Tax Exemption On Certain Medical Supplies To Combat State Shortage

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order on April 7 placing a suspension on taxes for certain protective medical supplies to help the state attain critical items for healthcare professionals and other essential workers.

Executive Order N-46-20 extends existing medical tax exemptions to include “personal protective equipment,” such as masks, gloves, eye protection, gowns and other “critical materials,” making it easier for the state to buy these necessities.

“All of us are working, in some cases collaboratively and other cases across our respective jurisdictions or sometimes against each other, in the open market to compete to procure through a supply-chain that is global more [personal protective equipment],” Newsom said in a press conference on April 8. 

This order has been supplemented by additional legislation allowing the state to expand funding for these kinds of resources, including emergency legislation that allocates up to $1 billion of funding to help the state combat the virus.

“It’s simply remarkable. In just one day’s time, members of the California Legislature came together across party lines to unanimously pass emergency legislation authorizing over $1 billion to fight COVID-19. This money will provide more hospital beds and medical equipment to help hospitals deal with the coming surge and it will help protect those who are most at risk,” Gov. Newsom said in a press release.

Across the state, hospitals and other medical providers are experiencing a shortage of items for personal protection while responding to growing numbers of COVID-19 patients who are entering emergency rooms and intensive care units.

Newsom said in a press conference on April 8 that the state has been able to procure over 41.5 million N95 masks to distribute throughout the state, with 1 million coming from the national stockpile. However, some medical professionals on the front lines say that this is not enough to reconcile the shortages, as the resources are not going to those with the greatest need.

Brian Ferguson, the spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said that the state is not monitoring the supplies that each hospital already has on hand, but is determining how to allocate new shipments of these supplies based on requests from hospitals to state and county agencies.

“We are seeing an incredible ad hoc approach by private hospitals — everybody is trying to go out after the same commodities,” Nick Vyas, Cofounder and Executive Director of the Center for Global Supply Chain Management at USC, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “We should have a SWAT team at the state level coordinating this effort on behalf of our hospital network.”

In a press conference on April 7, Newsom said that while social distancing efforts aimed at “flatten the curve” have been effective, current modeling suggests that the state has not yet reached its peak. 

“The curve is bending, but it is also stretching,” Newsom said. 

As of May 2, there are 52,197 positive cases of COVID-19 in the state of California, with 2,171 fatalities. 

Danielle Dawson is a Staff Writer. She can be reached at dmdawson@uci.edu.