Doctors, nurses and other medical staff caring for the growing number of novel coronavirus cases around the United States are scrambling to find the basic protective gear they need to keep themselves and their patients safe.
Top healthcare officials have said that the US does not have enough stockpiled medical equipment like masks, gowns and gloves to fulfill the anticipated need of nation’s health care system as the pandemic continues. More than 7,000 people in the US have been infected with coronavirus and more than 110 have died.
Hospital staff in Renton, Washington, are making DIY face shields for medical workers to help deal with the shortage. Providence St. Joseph Health system operates 51 hospitals and hundreds of clinics across seven states.
About 20 administrative staff members made 500 face shields from marine-grade vinyl, industrial tape, foam and elastic, Jennifer Bayersdorfer, the hospital group’s senior vice president for clinical quality, told CNN.
Bayersdorfer said staff members bought the supplies at craft stores and Home Depot and assembled the shields in a conference room. They are working on making kits that their volunteers can assemble at home, and they plan to start making masks as well.
They plan to use the equipment at Providence’s hospitals in the Seattle area.
“The situation is fluid but at any given time we are a just few days away from running out [of protective supplies],” Melissa Tizon, a spokeswoman for Providence St. Joseph Health, told CNN. “We get shipments from suppliers but it’s unpredictable how much and when product will show up, and it’s not enough.”
President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he would invoke the Defense Production Act, a 1950 wartime law, to help make up for potential shortages of medical supplies.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Defense Department will make up to 5 million N95 masks and other personal protective equipment from US strategic reserves available.
Medical workers around the country have been sharing their struggles to get the appropriate medical gear they need on social media, using the hashtag #GetMePPE (which stands for Personal Protective Equipment). They’ve been tagging their members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence, the leader of the White House coronavirus task force.
Many reported having to reuse masks, face shields and other protective equipment for several days.
Some have posted pleas asking people who panic bought masks to donate them.
Niran Al-Agba, a pediatrician in Silverdale, Washington, tweeted on Tuesday that someone left two boxes of respirator masks on her doorstep. She had mentioned the demand for protective equipment in an op-ed she wrote for her local paper.
The masks came from a hardware store and are designed to protect workers from construction dust, but Al-Agba told CNN they do what she needs.
She said this is the second time this has happened. Some of her patients have also brought her gloves, masks, goggles and other supplies.