LIMA — With COVID-19 concerns on the rise, first responders have a new tool to use when they’re called to emergency scenes.
Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, is now being widely deployed throughout the county to prep first responders and health care workers and keep them safe from viral outbreaks. But while gear is available today, there are worries that such gear — including surgical masks, respirators, face shields and surgical garments — won’t be available tomorrow.
“We’re being told that supplies are extremely limited,” Allen County Emergency Management Agency Director Tom Berger said. “Vendors are telling healthcare providers that it could be weeks before they can get more.”
For that reason, Berger and the local EMA is asking the public to provide them with any similar gear that is currently unused. In a release sent out earlier this week, Berger asked that smaller doctor’s offices and medical professionals that may be not be operating during the outbreak to consider donating PPE to the county in order to boost supply.
So far, Berger said he’s received donations from Apollo Career Center and the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities, among others.
Similarly, American Township Fire Chief Tom Hadding said he’s had solid feedback from the community and businesses in response to the call for supplies.
“Right now, we’re holding our own and not being overwhelmed. Supply wise, we’re sitting good and the county is sitting good,” Hadding said. “The community is backing us and supporting us. That’s the big thing. Everybody is in this together, and we have some really great support from the community and the local businesses.”
As for the extent of the need for PPE, the county is still in an early stage of the outbreak. Hadding said his officers have responded to two calls for service where individuals reported symptoms typically found in those suffering from the coronavirus. Both calls returned negative tests for the new virus, which causes the disease called COVID-19.
Allen County public health officials, however, have said new local cases are just a matter of time.
American Township EMT Brandon Barlage said he first used PPE starting last weekend, and while he’s been trained in how to use the equipment effectively, the coronavirus situation is definitely a novel one for him and other first responders.
“I think we somewhat train for things like these, but I’ve never expected anything to this scale,” Barlage said. “Because of the training that I had, I’m comfortable with what I’m doing. I just never expected the magnitude.”
On the national level, the lack of PPE is already hitting the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak in Washington and Oregon, and health care advocacy groups are calling on the national government to take the decisive actions necessary to ramp up production of PPE materials, especially when many public health experts are estimating an exponential growth in the number of cases in the United States.
The latest tally of confirmed cases in the United States, as of Friday afternoon, sets the number at over 16,000. Ten days prior, the United States had just over 1,000 confirmed cases.
Individuals or organizations with PPE to donate are encouraged to call 419-860-8598 to contact the Allen County EMA in order to schedule a drop off of available PPE. The county agency is available 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.