TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Michigan spent $135.3 million on masks, gloves and other gear during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, when officials were racing against time — and other states — to protect medical personnel and other essential workers, an Associated Press analysis found.
The nationwide analysis found that states paid more than $7 billion for personal protective equipment and crucial medical devices such as ventilators and infrared thermometers between early 2020, when COVID-19 first emerged in the U.S., and late spring.
In response to an AP request, the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget provided a list of 69 orders placed between March 21 through May 8. They provide a snapshot of the state's priorities and choices during a crucial period.
Key findings from the data:
Michigan spent $135.3 million on the 69 purchases during the seven-week early period, but didn't stop there. Altogether, the state has placed hundreds of orders totaling more than $260.6 million, according to department spokesman Caleb Buhs.
WHAT DID ALL THAT MONEY BUY?
Gloves, masks, goggles, face shields, gowns and ventilators.
By far the most money went for N95 and KN95 masks, which are designed to filter out 95% of tiny particles from the air. The state placed 10 orders totaling 23.1 million masks, costing a combined $87.3 million, or about $4 per mask.
Other expenditures by type included:
— Seven orders of gowns, totaling 1.8 million. Cost: $21 million.
— Two orders of ventilators, totaling 301. Cost: $4.9 million.
— Eight orders of face shields, totaling 2.2 million. Cost: $12.4 million.
— Two orders of surgical masks, totaling 7 million. Cost: $9.2 million.
— Thirty-eight orders of gloves, totaling 5.4 million. Cost: $494,918.
— Two orders of goggles, totaling 10,509. Cost: $21.4 million
DID MICHIGAN PAY COMPETITIVE PRICES?
Michigan's per-item payments were sometimes higher than the national averages calculated by AP and sometimes lower, but the differences were mostly insignificant.
For example, Michigan paid an average of $3.28 per N95 and KN95 mask and 14 cents for each glove, both around the national averages that states were paying last spring.
Michigan got a better deal on goggles, averaging $2.16 per pair, compared with around $5.50 nationwide. But the state's average payment per face shield was $5.69, while the national average was $4. Also, Michigan paid an average of $9.68 per gown, higher than the national average of $6.
The most expensive items were ventilators. Michigan paid, on average, $18,787 per ventilator, compared with the national average of around $17,000.
Quality, the level of protection provided, and location of factories and warehouses figured into pricing, as did immediate availability, Buhs said. Many products were more expensive than before the pandemic, but the prices Michigan paid at the time were in line with comparable items, he said.
High demand and limited supplies sometimes resulted in sharp price differences.
On April 1, Michigan paid $11 million for 2 million N95 masks from Hype Labs LLC, a software company in Grand Blanc — a per-mask cost of $5.50. A week later, it spent $641,000 for 1 million N95 masks from W.W. Grainger, a global distribution company based in suburban Chicago, paying just 64 cents per mask.
Buhs said the Grainger masks were manufactured by 3M, which offered a lower rate for preferred distributors that was passed on to Michigan. The Hype Labs masks were purchased on the open market, where vendors were charging as much as $8 per mask.
“It was critical that a supply of masks continued to flow into the state to protect frontline workers, and purchasing decisions hinged largely on where supply could be found with reputable businesses,” Buhs said.
Michigan received a discount on ventilators by purchasing 250 directly from Ventec GM, a partnership between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems that manufactured the devices at a retooled GM plant in Kokomo, Indiana. The state paid $3.7 million, or $14,875 each.
Its other ventilator purchase was from Coulmed Products Group in Springfield, N.J., paying a little over $1.1 million for 51 devices, or $22,700 each.
WHO ELSE DID MICHIGAN BUY FROM?
The state contracted with vendors as far away as Georgia and Utah but also did business with a number of Michigan-based suppliers, ranging from small companies to giants such as Ford Motor Co. and Dow Chemical Co.
J&B Medical, of Wixom, already a state contractor, was the leading producer of gloves. Ford provided surgical masks, selling them at cost for 40 cents apiece, as well as face shields. Dow was among suppliers of gowns.
BAJ Glass, of Flushing, whose product line includes glass partitions and sneeze barriers, made face shields — as did Akervall Technologies, a Saline company whose specialty is athletic mouth guards.
The pandemic hit just as the Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center, a newly established Detroit nonprofit, was about to begin manufacturing clothes. The company worked with others to design and make gowns for two local hospitals and the state, which bought 69,000 for $517,000.
WHO USED THE EQUIPMENT?
It went to local emergency managers, hospitals, skilled nursing and long-term care facilities, state agencies.
IS THE STATE STILL BUYING PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT?
Not as much; a few orders were placed in recent months.