First responders deal with shortage of protective gear

SAVANNAH, Tenn.– According to the CDC, market demand for personal protective equipment is high, but supply is just the opposite.

Many suffer from this shortage, especially in rural areas.

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“Normally, people might just want to grab a mask to go do something. Now, you have to go back and think, do you really need a mask for this?” EMS director and CEO for Hardin Medical Center Nick Lewis said.

“We’re going to have enough for immediate needs, but it’s not going to last very long. The state realizes that, so they’re making a priority of where to send them, as far as how many cases each county has,” Hardin County Fire Chief and EMA Director Melvin Martin said.

First responders in Hardin County, like many others, say they take extra precautions by wearing personal protective equipment on emergency calls after the COVID-19 outbreak.

Now, any volunteer firefighter who goes on a life threatening call, and the patient meets COVID-19 symptoms, they must wear this as head to toe protection.

These staples include N95 masks, gloves, Tyvek suits or gowns, and protective eye wear.

Unfortunately, first responders currently have trouble finding these basics.

Hardin County EMS director Nick Lewis says they’re still getting masks; however, “we’re not getting what we might normally use because everyone’s on a quota, and you’ve been given a percentage of the quota you’re going to get.”

While Martin says they received a small shipment of masks from TEMA, they’ll have to stretch them out.

“A lot of our firefighters are emergency medical trained, and they do go on medical calls, so those are the ones prioritized the masks and the Tyvek suits,” Martin said.

Both say they’re looking at cleaning options, including UV light, to get more use out of the equipment.

“We’re going to take care of our public and take care of people that need us, but we want to protect our first responders also,” Martin said.

Lewis says his medical staff must prepare as if every patient is a COVID-19 patient.

Categories: COVID-19 Updates, Local News, News