DENVER (CBS4)– When the coronavirus pandemic crossed into Colorado, Dr. Whitney Kennedy, a family medicine doctor in west Denver, said she knew she would need surgical masks for the staff at her clinic so she called her regular medical supplier. When the supplier said they were backed up and couldn’t provide any masks, Kennedy started to worry.
“If one person is exposed the clinic closes and we can’t take care of patients. We are the front line for all the people.”
She said she called various health and government agencies to try to obtain masks, but got nowhere.
At wits end, she said one of her patients knew construction workers in Austin, Texas who used surgical type masks on their construction site to deal with dust and particles in the air. But when COVID-19 came along, construction came to a halt. So the construction worker shipped 80 new masks to Kennedy to help her try to keep her workers from contracting the virus.
Kennedy described the purchase as a “back alley deal” and said she was surprised that’s what she had to do to get critical safety equipment to deal with the outbreak.
“And I truly thought Denver, Colorado, the federal government had our backs. Now I feel like no one has our backs,” said Kennedy.
She’s not the only one taking an unorthodox route to get PPEs, or personal protective equipment.
On Wednesday, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office used social media platforms to plead for donations of respirator face masks to get to doctors, nurses and patients.
By Thursday, 530 new masks had been donated but Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Deborah Sherman said it wasn’t enough.
“We need so many more. One hospital alone today asked us for 10,000 masks. We have given away what we have collected to long-term health care facilities and hospitals. We need the N95 masks mostly, but will take those surgical flat masks too- just as long as they’re NEW. Something is better than nothing,” said Sherman.
In north Denver, business owner Steve Skirrow heard of the need for masks. He owns an axle shop where workers use face masks to repel dust and debris. He checked his inventory of masks and ended up giving 600 new masks to the Thornton Fire Department and West Metro Fire Rescue. Firefighters use the masks when they encounter patients suspected of being infected with the virus.
“Together we can get through this,” said Skirrow.”I’d rather help than hoard.”
He hopes what he did inspires others to give, instead of taking during the global health crisis.
Thornton Fire Chief Gordie Olson said, “I am so proud of how the residents and business owners in the City of Thornton have offered their assistance to us through donations of precious commodities such as food and scarce medical supplies. We know that many are doing this amid turmoil in their personal and business lives. We appreciate it more than we can say and will do our best to return that compassion and caring to the community.”