The California Public Health Department inked a $192 million no-bid contract with a marketing and communications firm to make Covid-19 graphics — two years after the pandemic began.
The details of the contract, posted on the Health Dept’s website, and shared on Twitter, show that the contract was acquired by Sacramento-based ad agency Runyon Saltzman without being competitively bid. The contract began in January 2022 and runs through June 2023, and dubbed “Covid-19 public education,” will provide graphic design for the state to put out Covid information to the public.
More than two and a half years into the pandemic, both Covid-19 cases and deaths are very low, with 0 cases and 0 deaths reported on Nov. 13 when the data was last updated on USAFacts.org.
It’s unclear why such a huge PR spend was needed for this post-peak crisis period, especially given that Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to call an end to the Covid-19 state of emergency on Feb. 28, 2023.
The state of emergency gave the governor broad, controversial powers, including authority to issue nearly $12 billion of no-bid emergency contracts, CalMatters reported.
The $192 million revelation kicked up a Twitter storm with comments like, “That’s $10.7 million per month to produce images like this one. We must fight the Covid-industrial complex.” And this graphic from #slowthespread reminding citizens “to keep your mask on between bites” when dining in restaurants.
A search of the state’s contracting system shows that since 2016, Runyon Saltzman has received $360.8 million in state contracts, including another $62 million in no-bid contracts for Covid-19 awareness campaigns in 2020 and 2021.
With the state facing a $25 billion budget deficit, now’s a good time to reconsider whether it should be spending $192 million on “wear a mask” ad campaigns.
The #WasteOfTheDay is brought to you by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com