Concern over vital protective equipment as COVID-19 cases rise

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As the number of COVID-19 infections continues to increase, public safety and health officials are concerned about depleting stockpiles of personal protective equipment for first responders and healthcare workers.

“We always will need more,” said Meriden Fire Chief Ken Morgan. “We’re burning through it a lot faster than we normally would.”

Midway through the week, Morgan’s department had sufficient supplies of N95 medical masks and Tyvek protective suits, but was running short of respiratory aid equipment, like breathing tanks.

“Fortunately we can decontaminate them. Those are a reusable type item,” he said.

Morgan noted the department is trying to reuse protective suits as much as possible. But at some point, those would need to be replaced, as well.

“The guys are hanging in there. They’re really motivated. At the same time, they’re worried about taking it home to

families. So we’re doing everything we can to protect them and their families,” Morgan said.

As of Thursday, the state had reported a total of 3,824 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 827 patients were currently hospitalized. State officials reported 112 deaths related to the infections so far.

Maura Esposito, director of the Chesprocott Health District, said the area is running low on N95 masks and face shields. The district includes Cheshire.

While hospitals are the top priority for supplies, other partners, including group homes that work with the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, are in need, as well.

“They have been looking at us to give those supplies,” Esposito said.

Supplies have run so low that leaders like Esposito are down to giving out equipment that has expired.

Esposito urged anyone who has new, unused protective equipment to donate them. For information on where to donate, she recommended calling 211.

Shane Lockwood, health director for the Plainville-Southington Regional Health District, said the district is also running low on protective equipment.

“We’re managing our stockpile,” Lockwood said, adding, “We’ll get through this. We’ve gotten donations.”

One business, Hong Kong Kitchen in Southington, donated 1,000 facemasks. Those will be given to first responders and nursing homes, Lockwood said.

The district is accepting donations. Residents and businesses able to donate supplies can contact the health district by calling (860) 276-6275. They can also send an email to

The number of COVID-19 cases in Lockwood’s district, which also covers Middlefield, was 33 as of Wednesday evening. It’s not a true representation of how many cases are out there, Lockwood warned.

“We know there are many people out there. There are many people out there who have the symptoms but won’t get tested,” he said.

David Lowell, executive vice president for Hunter’s Ambulance in Meriden, said for now the medical transportation company has a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment.

However, Lowell expects an uptick in calls for emergency transportation in the coming weeks.

“We will be in need of additional supplies and have orders placed so we don’t run out,” Lowell said.

Lowell and others noted the situation is rapidly evolving.

“We are advising our first responders as this rolls on to treat every patient as if they have a COVID-19 infection, so there are no gaps in proper protective equipment,” Lowell said.

The company has also instituted a protocol to decontaminate vehicles and equipment following the transportation of patients suspected to be COVID-19 infected, to avoid cross-contamination, Lowell explained.

“We take that ambulance offline, move it to a secured area, and then a special team, using power sprayers, disinfect the vehicles,” he said.

Health carestaff needed

Officials for Hartford HealthCare reported a rising number of patients being treated in the network’s hospitals statewide. Those hospitals include MidState Medical Center in Meriden.

Dr. Ajay Kumar, executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Hartford HealthCare, said the network is so far well-supplied with equipment. At the same time, he put out a call for service from people with medical backgrounds. The network had also reached out to area medical schools, seeking potential respiratory therapists who will soon be graduating.

Kumar described emergency medical service providers, including technicians and ambulance drivers, as heroes.

Leaders expect even with efforts to mitigate the coronavirus spread, the number of cases will continue to rise. They urged people to follow public health directives.

“We’re not at the worst of it,” Lowell said. “Please help the healthcare workers help you. Flatten the curve by following every direction you’ve been given.”


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