SALEM, Ore. (AP) — When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Oregon and other states had to scramble to get protective masks for front-line medical workers, often importing them from China amid intense competition for a dwindling supply.
Now, for perhaps the first time, the state can access them from its own backyard.
Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions, based in Fremont, California, this week sent Oregon its first shipment of 600 N95 masks, produced at its manufacturing facility in Medford, said Debbie Dennis, Oregon’s chief procurement officer.
“To me, that’s a really big deal, because until now we have had to go overseas to try to purchase those items,” Dennis said in a phone interview. Masks produced by a U.S. company, 3M, were hard to get amid the demand, she added.
“I think having our own N95 supplier here in Oregon is pretty amazing,” she said.
Under the state’s purchase order, Lighthouse is to provide 200,000 N95 masks per month for 12 months. They’ll initially cost $3.95 each but that should drop to around $3.25 as manufacturing becomes more efficient, Dennis said.
Oregon officials said they learned early during the pandemic that they needed to look locally for connections in the state to help source increasingly scarce personal protective equipment and to make it.
“We have worked to ensure that Oregon does not again face the personal protective equipment shortages we did in the spring, when the national stockpile and available supply was quickly depleted,” said Gov. Kate Brown’s spokesman, Charles Boyle.