The Eden Health District Board of Directors authorized the purchase of 100,000 new medical masks on Wednesday, in addition, to helping fund three proposed covid-19 mobile testing sites in Alameda County.

Alameda County beat“We’re going to end up being the lightning rod for getting this thing going,” said Gordon Galvan, chair of the Eden Health District Board of Directors. “We need to do something and say, ‘We’re putting our money where our mouth is.'”

The district will spend $250,000 to purchase a minimum of 100,000 medical masks. Eden Health District CEO Mark Friedman said the purchase order will be made immediately at a cost of $2.15 per mask.

There are growing calls that most people wear masks at all times while in public, meaning already heightening demand for masks is likely to increase. “We want to get in the queue at a good price,” Friedman said. The order is expected to arrive next week, he told the board.

Other local entities have shown interest in adding to the order, Friedman said. The board allowed some leeway for Friedman to expand the order, if needed. St. Rose Hospital in Hayward is slated to receive at least 10,000 masks free of charge, Friedman said. In-home health care workers represented by the Service Employees International Union will also receive masks.

I don’t think there is any better priority for us right now.”–Don Perata

Former state Senate pro tem Don Perata, working with the district as a consultant, said distribution of existing masks to front-line workers and others in the county has been slow. “There is a huge paucity of masks and no organized effort,” he said.

Alameda County officials, however, have been busy with all aspects of combating the coronavirus outbreak. Among the most pressing needs, securing shelter for the homeless in an effort to stop the spread of the infection.

Following the lead of the Hayward Fire Department’s free testing site, the Eden Health District allocated on Wednesday another $250,000 toward the total costs of covid-19 testing.

Alameda County is expected to ultimately foot the bill for two-thirds of the entire funding of the sites, which would provide 10,000 tests among the three sites over 20 days, Eden Health District officials said.

Among the possible locations is the parking lot at St. Rose Hospital in Hayward, San Leandro Hospital, Eastmont Mall in Oakland, and the Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center in Hayward.

Earlier in the meeting, the district formally declared a health emergency. The move allows it, in part, to have much of their allocations for fighting the outbreak to be reimbursed by the federal government.

For the Eden Health District the local response to the pandemic presents it with an opportunity to prove itself. The district has struggled for several years to show its utility as a government agency. “I don’t think there is any better priority for us right now,” Perata said, in reference to the district providing resources sorely needed by the community.

Local state and county leaders have asserted in the past that the district does not serve a purpose since it no longer oversees a hospital within its boundaries. They have also criticized its high administrative costs.

The district, however, has never used its tax authority to fund its operation. Instead, its revenues, which provide grants to health care-related non-profits in the area, are mostly derived from its real estate investments, which include medical office buildings.