Washington shipping N95 masks in bulk from its stockpile

Washington state has started distributing free N95 masks in bulk to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Seattle Times reports in a story on Saturday that the first shipments went out after the Department of Health approved a plan to distribute masks to counties and tribes.

The state has shipped about 6 million N95 masks over the last month. That’s as many masks sent out as in the first eight months of the pandemic.

Johns Hopkins University reports that Washington has more than 195,000 infections and 2,879 deaths due to the virus.

Chandra Fox, deputy director of emergency management for Spokane County, ordered nearly 784,000 masks, the maximum allowed.

“If we have the opportunity to get our hands on particular supplies, I’m going to take it,” she said, fearing “things really going off the rails.”

Washington’s stockpile of N95s is almost entirely made up of masks made by BYD, a Chinese automotive conglomerate. The state agreed to pay BYD nearly $100 million for the masks.