DENVER (CBS4) – The need for personal protective equipment continues to be critical. On Monday, through the national stockpile, Colorado received enough supplies to get frontline workers through one day.
The Strategic National Stockpile is “the nation’s largest supply of potentially life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.”
Colorado received the following material:
• 49,200 N95 masks
• 115,000 surgical masks
• 21,420 surgical gowns
• 21,800 face shields
• 84 coveralls
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) told CBS4 it has a request for millions of supplies, but has not had approval yet.
Many agencies are making adjustments because of the shortage. CDPHE says its heard reports of healthcare workers trying to make masks last longer and of companies trying to sanitize masks to reuse.
CBS4 met with West Metro Fire Monday, one of many agencies making changes to adjust to the pandemic.
“At a minimum we have an N95 mask which you’ve heard a lot about. We have goggles to protect the eyes, and if you’re not wearing an N95, we have what we call a half mask which covers the face and comes with N95 filters,” said Lt. Reed Norwood, a Fire Safety Officer for West Metro.
West Metro recently outfitted firefighters with the half masks. The filters last longer and are replaceable.
“Part of the reason we went to these is because of the shortage of N95. This offers a little bit higher level of protection,” he said.
Not only do they use masks, but for every medical call they wear a hazmat or Tyvek hazmat suits.
“The last patient we just went on a few minutes ago we had to presume they had COVID-19 because they had a fever because that’s one of the criteria, and that might not always be the case, but we’re always going to err at the highest level of caution to prevent that spread.”
Norwood says the amount of medical calls lately have skyrocketed.
“Our system is getting taxed right? So we want to be able to reserve our apparatus and our personnel to respond to truly sick, emergently sick people, and we can really use the public’s help in taking care of their minor medical problems at home.”
While Norwood understands the fear surrounding the pandemic, he says often times the call doesn’t require a call to 911.
“From the first responder perspective, we’re going to be here. We’re going to continue doing our job,” he said. “We’re really trying to spread the message that we are here and we will come to your house, but if you’re sick and you can take care of yourself at home, please do that.”
Not only does it save PPE, but it frees up Norwood and his crew for other emergencies.
While administrative staff have been reduced to 50%, he says emergency response staff is at 100% and ready to go when called upon.
“The information here changes hour to hour, our operational procedures change day to day. Our membership has been incredible at how adaptable they are,” he said.
The CDPHE says it will be getting a second push of PPE from the national stockpile in a matter of days, but it doesn’t know exactly when.
If you would like to help, the state has a link with information on how to donate PPE.