The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said Monday it had issued a roughly $240,000 fixed-price contract to a small business in Georgia to provide almost a quarter-million, Chinese-made, KN95-style respirator masks for its contractor and federal employees.
“This order is to procure masks for NNSA to meet expected demand when employees return to work,” an agency spokesperson wrote in an email Monday. “The masks are intended to protect personnel if and when they are unable to meet social distancing guidance and will be procured for DOE and NNSA as needed.”
The semiautonomous Department of Energy nuclear-weapon agency planned to order 186,000 masks for contractors at various agency sites, and 39,000 for federal employees, according to a procurement note posted online. That comes to about $1 per mask. American Dream Builders of Douglasville, Ga., won the contract.
The address to which the business is registered in federal procurement databases is a single-family-style residential home, according to Google Maps. It is the same address given for managing partner Allen Ward, according to federal records.
The NNSA solicited bids for the contract on April 23 and received 105 offers, according to a report generated from a federal procurement database.
The NNSA had around 44,000 contractor and federal employees as of November. More than 1,750 of those are federal employees, according to the agency’s 2021 budget request. At that rate, there would be around 20 masks per federal employee and about four masks per contractor.
KN-95 respirators are fabric masks that fit over a person’s nose and mouth. They are similar to N-95 masks, except that they are certified to a Chinese, rather than an American, standard.
American manufacturer 3M, St. Paul, Minn., said in an online technical bulletin that it is “reasonable to consider” KN-95 as equivalent to the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s N-95 standard. Properly fitted, both masks can help protect people from becoming infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that broke out in Wuhan, China, last year.
The NNSA said it was in the public interest to waive buy-America provisions that otherwise might have required a domestic supplier for the protective personal respirators.
Most of the contractors at NNSA’s nuclear weapons laboratories are not currently working on-site. Some are, including some people at the Los Alamos National Laboratory involved with plutonium pit production.
On the other hand, NNSA production sites are still asking most people involved with hands-on nuclear weapons work to report to their usual stations on site. Combined, the Kansas City National Security Campus in Kansas City, Mo., the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., employ about 13,500 people. However, all three sites are requiring just about every employee who can telework to do so.
The NNSA as of Friday had confirmed 69 cases of COVID-19 among its workforce since the U.S. outbreak started in late January. Of those, 29 had recovered, and none had died. Each NNSA site has cases of COVID-19.