California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on Tuesday what is being called a first-in-the-nation law requiring hospitals and health care facilities to stockpile 45 days' worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) in order to protect health care workers and patients from coronavirus.
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The law, passed by California's state legislature on Aug. 31, was heavily backed by unions, including the California Nurses Association and the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, which says it conceived of the legislation.
“We want to make hospitals in the state responsible for their own workers,” California Nurses Association President Zenei Cortez said in a statement. “Hospitals are responsible for providing a safe workplace and that includes PPE. They should not be relying exclusively on support from federal or state government stockpiles to provide PPE for nurses and other health care workers.”
SB 275 requires hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, dialysis clinics and other health care facilities to maintain PPE stockpiles.
SB 275 would require the stockpiles to be created by Jan. 1, 2023, and health care providers could be on the hook for fines up to $25,000 if they're found to be in violation. SB 275 would also require California to maintain a 90-day supply of PPE for health care and other essential workers.
Two Democrats, state Sens. Richard Pan and Connie Leyva, were the main sponsors of SB 275, which seeks to address the PPE shortage many health care workers experienced earlier in the coronavirus crisis.
When the crisis first exploded in March and April in hot spots such as New York City, the situation was so desperate that nurses turned plastic garbage bags into protective gowns. The lack of equipment forced states and hospitals to compete against each other, the federal government and other countries in desperate, expensive bidding wars.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.