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Nevada County health workers say they currently have sufficient supply of personal protective equipment

Linda Schafer, a member of the Nevada County chapter of the American Sewing Guild, models a personalized cloth mask. Many area organizations and individuals have been sewing and donating thousands of face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Hospital staff and health workers say they currently have enough personal protective equipment to handle a possible spike in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks and months.
Photo submitted by Allen Schafter

Nevada County hospitals and nursing homes say they have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) should a COVID-19 surge occur.

“We’re feeling good about PPE — we’ve got plenty to take care of patients,” said Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital President and CEO Dr. Brian Evans. “Early projections of the pandemic looked alarming — we worried that the wave we might see here would have been impossible to deal with. So we got busy on all surge planning — it was a very robust effort.

“Then, while we were working on it, our community went into lockdown mode. As a result, the wave statisticians were predicting did not occur.”

Having now tested hundreds of residents, Evans said COVID-19 numbers are currently flat in western Nevada County. Yet this is no time to be complacent, he emphasized. With the phased reopening of businesses, testing, tracing and treating remain a priority.

“If you ask infectious diseases experts, they’d say to stay home for a year and a half. If you talk economists, they’d say no way. We have to take a balanced view on this.” — Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital President/CEO Dr. Brian Evans

“This will be a challenge,” said Evans. “With a new infection like this, we don’t know what’s going to happen as social distancing is relaxed. We need to be very cautious.”

Personal protective equipment is doled out evenly among the six Dignity Health hospitals in the region, of which Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital is one. Evans said hospital staff should be prepared should a disruption in the international supply chain occur. As a result, a greater emphasis has been placed on investing in reusable equipment, conserving existing equipment and exploring more local suppliers.

“We need to be judicious and conservative — we’re finding ways to do the same with less,” said Evans. “For example, we now have a local company making reusable face shields for us. In the past it’s been easier just to grab a disposable. But it’s not environmentally responsible, it’s more expensive and it could be a problem is the supply chain were to be disrupted.”

No shortages

Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee also reports no PPE shortages, and efforts are being made to prepare for possible increases of COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks and months.

“As far as PPE, we have not experienced any shortages — we have carefully monitored our usage very closely from day one, and have been able to continually secure enough PPE to cover our needs so far in this crisis,” said Paige Thomason, director of marketing and communications for the Tahoe Forest Health System. “We didn’t have any PPE shortages, but there were points where we were concerned about it, as every hospital was. Fortunately, we’ve been able to receive an adequate PPE supply through our normal (legitimate) vendors.”

The Truckee hospital is in an ongoing state of preparation should a COVID-19 surge occur, said Thomason, and this includes close daily monitoring of supplies and staffing. Additionally, the hospital is keeping a careful watch on county, state and national statistics regarding testing numbers, those who have tested positive and those who have been “ruled out” as candidates for the virus.

Western Nevada County rehabilitation, convalescent and nursing facilities also report a sense of readiness should COVID-19 cases rise.

“We feel good over here — we’ve got a full plan and ample PPE,” said Beth Lewis, infection preventionist at the Golden Empire Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Grass Valley. “The staff is good — we’re all getting a little tired of wearing masks, but everyone is compliant. We’ve conducted a few tests, but no one tested positive.”

As with other nursing homes, Golden Empire must adhere to a strict set of guidelines, which includes regular communication with the California Department of Public Health, the Nevada County Public Health Department and Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.

Local efforts

Local efforts to provide PPE for health workers, first responders and everyday community members appear to be continuing. Examples include hand sanitizer made by South Fork Vodka in Grass Valley and the Old Trestle Distillery in Truckee; medical masks and face shields made by Autometrix, Inc. in Grass Valley; and countless cottage industry cloth mask makers.

For example, at the onset of the pandemic, members of the American Sewing Guild’s Grass Valley chapter made more than 600 masks that went directly to those in Nevada County who expressed a need. The Sacramento chapter of the guild then joined in to make medical masks for frontline medical workers who use the cloth masks to cover and protect their N-95 masks, therefore extending their use of certified masks. Starting at the beginning of March with just 33 volunteers who made 2,275 masks, it then expanded to 69 volunteers who made an additional 1,300 masks by May 1.

Since the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released new recommendations that everyone wear a mask when in public, volunteers say that more requests continue to come in every week.

“This virus will continue to be a challenge,” said Evans. “If you ask infectious diseases experts, they’d say to stay home for a year and a half. If you talk economists, they’d say no way. We have to take a balanced view on this. Lately the debate seems to be more emotional, and I believe it needs to be more analytical.

“But from the perspective of the hospital and me personally, it’s been tremendously inspiring to see that the community has our back.”

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RELATED RESOURCES

http://www.TheUnion.com/coronavirus

http://www.MyNevadaCounty.com/coronavirus

Coronavirus Guidance for Businesses/Employers

Nevada County Relief Fund for Covid-19

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.


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