State working to get more personal protection equipment to Washington

Healthcare workers have been on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis, and like many other states in the country, Washington has been working to get doctors, nurses, first responders and patients the necessary equipment to protect themselves during the pandemic.

In a phone briefing on Thursday, officials from the Department of Enterprise Services, Department of Health and Department of Emergency Management, working together as a joint operation at Camp Murray, gave an update on the personal protective equipment (PPE) that has been procured or is on its way to Washington.

“PPE plays such a vital role in any infectious disease outbreak, and it sure is the case in this one,” said Jerrod Davis, assistant secretary for disease control and health statistics at the Department of Health.

The state has acquired 500 ventilators, 1,200 gowns, 500,000 N95 masks and 130,000 surgical masks, said Linda Kent, public affairs director of the Department of Enterprise Services. Another 2.4 million N95 masks are also on the way, and its anticipated the state will soon be able to get 2.2 million more on top of that. The state is also expecting another 300 ventilators as well.

While the arriving supply has been welcome news for medical facilities around the state, Davis said it’s not yet enough to satisfy the needs of the medical community. Davis said distribution of the equipment would be given first to areas in greatest need and highest number of confirmed cases.

“We’re really prioritizing the folks that need it most,” Davis said.

Kent said the DES would leave “no stone unturned” as it works with manufacturers, retailers and other third party entities along with accepting donations and supplies from the national stockpile, FEMA and the national surplus program.

“We’ve seen a flood of inquires, and that’s something that really filled us with gratitude,” Kent said.

Davis said the biggest needs outside of the aforementioned equipment is more disposable gowns, hand sanitizer, and of course, COVID-19 test kits. While testing will continue, it will continue to focus on folks who are symptomatic, as well as healthcare workers, first responders and the vulnerable population.

The state is also expecting a 148-bed field hospital within the next couple of weeks, said Karina Shagren, Communications Director for Emergency Management Division at the Washington State Military Department. The location for that field has yet to be confirmed, but it does come with personnel, which eliminates the need to staff it locally and place further strain on healthcare workers here in Washington.