The Division of Emergency Management has spent $500 million on protective equipment, which Director Jared Moskowitz defended Tuesday as a necessary cost outweighed by the limitless cost of human life.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has put every state under simultaneous emergency declarations, but Florida’s emergency response coordinators are also having to fight a global crunch for the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). That equipment, such as face masks and goggles, can prevent a nurse, doctor or first responder from contracting the contagious coronavirus.
“If we have to make decisions to get lifesaving PPE regardless of whatever the cost is, buy it from whoever has it, we’re going to do that,” Moskowitz said.
“We’ll buy it from whoever can sell it to us as long as the product is real and we’ll pay whatever it costs, because I’m not going to put a value on a life,” he added.
And in the face of price gouging, the state would deal with the padded costs.
Earlier this month, Moskowitz took to Twitter and a media tour to bash 3M for the favoritism its distributors gave to foreign governments that paid more or paid in cash, offering orders to those governments rather than putting Americans first. Now, after talks with the White House, 3M will send N95 masks directly to the federal government, of which Florida is entitled to 1 million.
Gov. Ron DeSantis thanked 3M’s CEO for being responsive to the state’s concerns and for pledging to make masks available for the United States.
“It’s been a real, real problem how the secondary markets work, but I’m glad that we’re able to work this out,” DeSantis said.
3M has guaranteed 55 million of its N95 masks produced in Asia will be split between its distributors and the federal government each month. Of that portion going to the federal government, the White House earmarked 1 million for Florida, including 800,000 that are already in the hands of DEM.
Next, those supplies go to first responders.
In the next 36 hours, DEM will distribute 1.2 million procedure masks, 100,000 face shields, 500,000 gloves, 60,000 containers of hand sanitizer and 35,000 gowns. After that package, the state will have distributed 8 million masks, 5.5 million gloves, 564,000 shoe covers, 615,000 face shields, 300,000 gowns, 100,000 containers of hand sanitizer, 47,000 goggles and 22,000 cover-alls.
While Moskowitz has led the public push for N95 masks, DeSantis has held phone calls with President Donald Trump and 3M CEO Mike Roman.
“When this all started, we had had millions of these masks ordered,” DeSantis said. “We’d be told they’d be delivered on Friday, then we’d go and they’d disappear. ‘Oh, next Wednesday.’ You’d go and they’d disappear.”