Following Saturday and Tuesdays’ announcements of Apple donating more than nine million N95 ventilator masks to help combat the coronavirus pandemic, the obvious question arises, why did Apple have so many masks? It now appears the answer was a simple one…A state mandate, instituted last year, to protect employees following the recent California wildfires.
CNBC reported Wednesday that executives of both Apple and Facebook (who also contributed 700,00 masks, though not all of them are N95) confirmed they had them in storage as a result of the 2019 wildfires in California and were required to have them by state law.
In 2019, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted a regulation forcing employers to provide respiratory equipment, including N95 masks, for workers when the Air Quality Index reached unhealthy levels.
“Surgical masks or items worn over the nose and mouth such as scarves, T-shirts, and bandannas will not provide protection against wildfire smoke,” the rule said. “An N95 filtering facepiece respirator, shown in the image below, is the minimum level of protection for wildfire smoke.”
With Apple Park in Cupertino, California able to house some 12,000 employees, it’s not exactly clear why Apple procured nine million of the masks. An Apple spokesperson has not responded to a request for comment made Tuesday by Cult of Mac.
There were over 7,860 fires during the 2019 California wildfire season, totaling more than an estimated 259,800 acres of burned land.
Apple donations add up
Masks are in short supply worldwide as the coronavirus spreads and healthworkers are in need of items to care for the sick.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced Tuesday that Apple has donated nine million N95 respirator masks.
Pence said, “Apple went to their storehouses and is donating nine million N95 masks to healthcare facilities all across the country and to the national stockpile. There is a level of generosity that I know is inspiring to the president and is truly inspiring to all of us who are working on the White House coronavirus task force.”
Apple also donated two million industrial respiratory masks to help health-care workers last Saturday. Cook confirmed on Twitter then that the company had been working behind the scenes to find supplies of masks for healthcare workers in both the U.S. and Europe.
Our teams at Apple have been working to help source supplies for healthcare providers fighting COVID-19. We’re donating millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe. To every one of the heroes on the front lines, we thank you.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) March 21, 2020
Pence called on other companies Saturday to step up and follow suit with more physical donations. He said he was optimistic about the supply of masks and said clothing-maker Hanesbrands is retrofitting some of its factories to manufacturer masks.