A 3M N95 mask — Unsplash Credit: Unsplash

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On March 17, when Nova Scotia had just had its first confirmed case of COVID-19, Halifax placed an order for 100,000 masks.

Amid a global shortage, the city found a connection through a seemingly unlikely source — a lighting company based in Bedford, Nichent Energy Inc.

“These were COVID supplies, they were masks deemed necessary to keep their necessary staff in working order. I was the only one that was able to fulfill that at the time with my logistical channels in China,” said Nichent president Terry Klironomos. “They reached out to me and I was able to fulfill what they needed.”

The purchase orders showed up in a summary of awarded contracts that goes to council on a quarterly basis, published online Friday. Listed as “Emergency Purchase – COVID-19 PANDEMIC EMO SUPPLIES,” the two orders are worth $429,000 and $958,000, taxes in.

“We originally had two emergency purchases placed with Nichent Energy for the manufacture, supply and delivery of KN95 masks for essential service personnel,” municipal spokesperson Erin DiCarlo said in an email.

The second purchase, 200,000 masks for $958,000, was cancelled in early May.

The 100,000 masks the city did buy went to nearly every department, according to DiCarlo, including police, transit, parks and recreation, transportation and public works, planning and development, libraries and even the auditor general’s office.*

KN95 masks are the Chinese equivalent of the more commonly known N95 mask. Their specifications are similar, but Health Canada issued a recall on many of the KN95 masks in May.

“The masks we received from Nichent were not affected” by the recall, DiCarlo said.

* After publication, DiCarlo contacted us to say she was mistaken about the auditor-general’s office.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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