At least 15,800 essential workers could’ve avoided contracting coronavirus if California had stockpiled personal protective equipment before the pandemic, according to a new study from University of California Berkeley.
Findings published Wednesday estimated 15,800 potentially avoidable cases among healthcare and other essential workers and their household members.
They were associated with approximately 300 hospitalizations at an estimated cost of $7.9 million in unemployment claims.
Partially due to lack of PPE, 251,100 healthcare workers were receiving unemployment benefits early in the pandemic as the majority of non-emergency and elective surgeries were canceled.
But for the every week earlier the same number of employees could return to work in the next viral health crisis, the state would save $93million, according to the UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health and Labor Center.
The study found that out of 50,950 cases identified in essential workers so far, at least 17,830 infections came from the work place. It’s estimated that 3,030 secondary COVID-19 cases came from those infections, bringing the tally to 20,860.
The research references a study from the Netherlands that found it was highly unlikely the cases identified in 95 healthcare workers from across three hospitals were contracted in the workplace.
It also points to a study from China and long-term care facilities in Washington state that shows a lack of supply and inadequate use of the gear contributed to the spread.
UC Berkeley researchers believe 35 percent of these infections could’ve been avoided.
It was estimated that the cost of PPE would’ve only been 17% of what it has taken to battle coronavirus infections now due to inflated rates.
The state would still be making a saving even if the stockpile of face masks, gowns and gloves wasn’t required for the next 35 years.
California spent hundreds of millions of dollars on stockpiling PPE in 2006 amid a threat of avian flu under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
However funding to maintain the stockpile, which included 50 million N95 masks, was cut off in 2011 under Gov. Jerry Brown, leaving the state with only 21 million masks when coronavirus hit.
Medical masks soared from 5 cents to 55 cents and N95 masks went from $1.95 to $5.90.
When New York was the epicenter in April Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to pay $7.50 for N95s.
California agreed to pay $3.30 per mask but the delivery time of June for too late.
Some state agencies were paying as much as $12.94 per mask in April, according to the LA Times.
Now California aims to acquire 100 million surgical masks and 200 million N95s by fall when a surge in cases is predicted.
The findings came as a new SB 275 bill requires health care providers to build a stockpile to last 90 days by June 2023.
By June 1, 2021 they must have a 30-day supply however there’s a risk beginning the stockpile too son could deprive areas that need it now.
The amount of PPE required depends on the number of employees. However while a typical hospital requires 5,000-6,600 N95 masks per year, this pandemic has seen the demand soar to 17 times that. California would need 12.5million in the stockpile.
For each N95 required by a technician or physician, two surgical masks, one face shield, two isolation gowns, two shoe covers, and nine glove pairs are needed.
California is now the worst affected state amid the pandemic.
The state has 594,810 cases and there have been 10,815 deaths.