LAKEWOOD, Wash. – The coronavirus crisis means officials are treating the situation as an emergency.
The number one issue for government officials is providing enough personal protective equipment for health care professionals who will need them in the coming days.
“We’re doing everything we can to help the people of Washington work their way through this situation,” said Robert Ezelle, Director of the Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division.
The emergency operations center is located in Lakewood where people from all types of government agencies and other stakeholders come together to make sure Washington state is as best prepared to confront coronavirus head-on.
“We’re trying to figure out how to solve the logistics challenges, getting PPE (personal protective equipment) to medical providers who need it,” he said.
Part of that logistics challenge are masks those and other devices, otherwise called personal protection equipment, for medical personnel.
“It’s the absolute number one priority because we’re at the epicenter of the country here,” he said.
But just finding PPE has been a challenge. Plus, considering so many more people are testing positive for COVID-19, and many more have yet to be tested, officials are doing everything they can to get the devices into the hands of caregiver
“We’re working with the federal government to release the stockpile to try to get things to first responders who need the equipment,” said Ezelle.
While there’s a shortage, employees at Providence Health headquarters in Renton were busy fashioning their own face shields this week.
Sources tell Q13 News some medical facilities are planning a centralized distribution facility to keep masks and other items from going missing.
“I honestly hope we acted soon enough, and we prepared deeply enough in the weeks to come to take care of the communities in which we live,” said Dr. Todd Hafner.
Hafner works as an anesthesiologist in Western Washington and he says coronavirus is very much a concern.
“We might be on the front lines,” he said. “Every time we do a procedure in the operating room we simply don’t know who we’re taking care of.”
And considering how quickly positive infection numbers are rising, Hafner says he’s expecting he will get sick without adequate personal protective equipment.
“I’m prepared mentally that I will get infected. And so, I have to make plans for that,” he said.
The CDC issued a directive for healthcare professionals to use a bandana in place of a mask as a last resort. But since they are basically homemade, they be can’t guaranteed to protect against coronavirus.