CARTERET COUNTY — Local emergency officials say the county has a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment to handle the current health needs of the community, but that could change as the novel coronavirus continues to spread.
Carteret County Emergency Services Director Stephen Rea told the News-Times as of Tuesday, the county’s stock of personal protective equipment, or PPE, is adequate to outfit first responders with gear. PPE includes equipment such as surgical masks, N95 respirator masks, eye shields, gloves, gowns and other gear designed to protect first responders and health workers from getting infected when dealing with patients who may have COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“I don’t have exact numbers, but we have a sufficient stock of PPE for our first responders at this time,” Mr. Rea said.
Though it is not yet a critical need, Mr. Rea said surgical masks are the one item in the lowest supply right now. He asked anyone with extra medical-grade surgical masks to consider donating them to the county. He added the county has enough N95 respirator masks for now.
“We have a good supply right now, but if this continues on much longer, we will need them,” he said.
The county’s emergency services department acts as a middleman among local first responding agencies –police, fire and EMS departments – and the state for ordering and distributing PPE. Mr. Rea said since the state has been getting much of its supply from a national PPE stockpile, it can take a while for requests to be fulfilled.
“They get requests from all over the state, so they have to prioritize where the supplies go at a state level,” he said. “…We’re getting the supplies we need, but it is a slow process.”
Mr. Rea said some local agencies requested extra PPE as a precaution, but the state was only able to provide enough to cover immediate needs. He said there are formulas that help calculate what PPE is needed, but since the situation is ever-changing, it’s hard to know exactly what the future needs could be. He added the county also orders some supplies directly from vendors.
“Everyone has to guesstimate what they might need, which is tough,” Mr. Rea said.
The state’s stock of PPE is tracked and monitored by N.C. Emergency Management, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The NCDHHS keeps an updated count of PPE requested and received from the national stockpile.
As of Friday, the state had received 598,000 procedure masks, 242,100 N95 masks, 87,966 gowns, 460,000 pairs of gloves, 113,184 face shields and 414 coveralls. The state requested 500,000 of each type of equipment.
Gov. Roy Cooper and others have criticized the federal government for only providing a fraction of the equipment requested. In a Friday press conference, Gov. Cooper said the state has received three shipments of supplies from the national stockpile, and he was told not to expect any more. In response, the governor said the state will move to ordering supplies directly from manufacturers.
Carteret Health Care representatives did not respond to a request for comment about the hospital’s supply of PPE.
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