POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Hospitals, nursing homes and public safety agencies have made 200 requests for protective equipment to Polk County emergency management officials in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The storm’s not even here yet,” said Paul Womble, Polk County Emergency Management director. “When you have all fifty states and every country in the world at the same time, there’s just not enough stuff.”
Womble is using some procedures in place that are used to prepare for and respond to hurricanes.
“In that case, it’s for the public, food and water primarily. So we’re using those same plans and same concepts with personal protective equipment and right now our customers are the health care providers and the first responders,” said Womble.
The requests for personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gloves, gowns and face shields, are coming from hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ offices, and first responders.
“I’m not aware of anybody being out,” said Womble. “We did get some initial masks on Tuesday or Wednesday last week that went out to folks that were critical.”
The county got a boost last week when Polk County Public Schools donated supplies from medical and construction academies.
N-95 masks, the most common particle filtering facepiece respirator, are the critical need at the Watson Clinic in Lakeland.
“We have a critical shortage of the medical grade masks and these are currently on back order,” said Dr. Steven Achinger, managing partner and chairman of the board at Watson Clinic. “We cannot obtain them. We have been using construction grade N-95 masks in order to fill in that gap.”
Once the supplies start flowing from the state and federal governments, they will be taken to an undisclosed warehouse site for pickup.
“We’re gearing up for weeks or longer of this. Records will be set I’m sure on how many missions. The goal is to support the health care community,” said Womble.
A spokesperson with Polk County Fire Rescue tells 8 On Your Side the agency has enough PPE right now. Orders, however, are on backlog.
In the meantime, first responders are being cautious about when they use their protective gear.
For the latest development on Polk County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the county’s website.
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