Washington state scrambles to boost supply of life-saving protective items for healthcare workers

By Cameron Sheppard

WNPA News Service

Millions of N-95 masks and other types of personal protective equipment are being delivered to Washington state as public health and emergency response officials scramble to obtain the equipment needed to respond to the growing COVID-19 outbreak.

Jerrod Davis, assistant secretary for disease control and health statistics at the Department of Health, said in late March there is significant global demand for these kinds of items and right now the state does not have enough to satisfy the needs of its communities.

Davis explained that the state’s joint operations team at Camp Murray, composed of the Department of Enterprise Services, Department of Health, and Emergency Management Division, is working collaboratively with many partners to procure the gear they need.

He said health departments across the state report the quantity of equipment that they need and the joint operation team works to fulfill them.

Respirators, surgical masks, gowns, thermometers and sanitizing equipment have been delivered by the thousands. Linda Kent, public affairs official for the Department of Enterprise Services, said millions more have been requested as the DES and other state agencies are working “creatively” to fulfill a critical need.

Davis said requests have been made for gear from the national stockpile, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and even public equipment donations are being accepted.

Kent said the team is “leaving no stone unturned” as they reach out to private retailers and distributors for these products, working with manufacturers and urging them to “switch gears” and join in the effort to supply life-saving equipment.

Healthcare professionals are already having to take measures to conserve the increasingly valuable protective equipment.

Davis said the gear that is being obtained is being distributed to the most affected regions — including King County and nearby Western Washington counties where the virus is spreading quickly.

Kent said the need for personal protective equipment will be on-going as the healthcare community prepares for the “long haul” of this outbreak.

As the coronavirus pandemic develops, Kent said there will be “no way to predict what the need will be with great precision.”

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