It’s a good-news, bad-news week, regarding the 225,000 Chinese-made personal respirators the National Nuclear Security Administration ordered to protect employees and contractors from COVID-19. Good news, they’re still coming. Bad news, at a 70% price premium, compared what the agency thought it would pay.
The semi-autonomous Department of Energy nuclear-weapons agency had to cough up the extra money after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the KN95-rated respirators that the stockpile steward’s small business supplier wanted to source from China.
“In order to get an FDA approved vendor, American Dream Builders identified an alternative approved source to provide the masks,” a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) spokesperson in Washington wrote in an email Wednesday. “The contract was modified due to a slightly higher price.”
The whole order, to be sourced by suburban Atlanta-based American Dream Builders, will now cost the NNSA about $415,000, instead of roughly $240,000, according to a contract modification posted this week. That’s a little more than $1.80 for each KN95-rated respirator.
KN95 is a Chinese standard similar to the American N95 standard. The 95 indicates that a respirator can filter out 95% of particulates that pass through it. Properly worn, personal respirators can help protect a wearer from catching COVID-19: the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus that broke out in Wuhan, China, last year.
American Dream Builders, officially organized in Georgia in 2017, was one of more than 100 companies to respond to NNSA’s request for quotation last month. The competition was a total small-business set aside. The agency award the respirator contract on April 27, well before the FDA ban hammer came down on nearly 50 models of Chinese-made masks, including the one American Dream Builders wanted to source for the NNSA.
The NNSA is stockpiling the disposable personal respirators to give out to its own contractors and federal employees, as needed. The agency ordered 186,000 masks for contractors at various agency sites, and 39,000 for federal employees, according to the request for quotation.
American Dream Builders last week declined to comment about whether it had already taken delivery of any masks now banned for sale as respirators in the U.S.