After many days combing public and private sources for personal protective equipment for first responders, medical workers and others enmeshed in the COVID-19 crisis, Bucks County received large shipments of several items from a number of suppliers.
Emergency Services Director Scott T. Forster announced that about 21,000 N-95 masks, 21,000 surgical masks, 1,700 face shields, 1,600 surgical gowns and thousands of protective gloves arrived at the Emergency Operations Center in Ivyland, on April 1.
While Forster conducted a mid-afternoon news briefing outside a loading bay of the EOC, county workers worked inside the bay to sort and prepare the shipments for delivery to police departments, emergency medical services, hospitals, long-term care facilities and others.
“By the end of this week, these supplies will be in their hands,” Forster said.
Within the next few days, he added, another 10,000 N-95 masks, 2,800 face shields, 8,000 gowns and hundreds of cases of gloves are expected to arrive, followed next week by 10,000 more N-95 masks and additional cleaning supplies.
“These materials are very hard to get, and were obtained only after calling dozens of vendors, as well as the state and federal governments,” Forster said. “And little by little, everyone has come through to provide us with the equipment that our folks need to be sure that they’re safe while they take care of our residents.”
All of the N-95 masks received came from the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile, as did about half of the surgical masks. The rest were purchased with county funds, about 75 percent of which Forster said should be eligible for federal COVID-19 reimbursement.
Forster said the new shipments should ensure that workers needing PPE in Bucks County are well-supplied for now.
“Unfortunately, in the coming weeks we are going to see an increase in our cases and the number of people we have to take care of,” he added.
The county has also been evaluating two unused medical facilities in Upper and Lower Bucks County to serve as medical surge facilities if needed.
“We had an assessment done yesterday by the Army Corps of Engineers, and we are awaiting the results of that assessment to see if we will be able to partner with the owners of those facilities, as well as the state, to open [them] so that we can use them for patient overflow if it is needed,” Forster said.
The deliveries came as welcome news on a day that 55 new COVID-19 cases were identified in the county, raising the total to 373. There were no new deaths, but 32 patients are hospitalized, including 10 in critical condition, said Dr. David Damsker, director of the Bucks County Department of Health.