‘We need the armor to fight it': Governor asks for NC manufacturers to assist in creating protective equipment

National protective equipment stockpile depleted

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - With productive equipment in short supply for front-line workers dealing directly with the coronavirus pandemic, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is asking state manufacturers to shift their line of production.

The governor is asking state companies to assist in creating masks, gloves, gowns and other needed materials.

“This pandemic is a war and we need the armor to fight it,” Cooper said at Friday’s briefing.

The state and health officials are aggressively hunting down materials for healthcare workers and patients to help treat and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

State officials haven’t received even half of what they asked for from the Strategic National Stockpile.

In an effort to combat the virus, and protect those workers in the front lines, Cooper is pleading for a statewide response to fight COVID-19.

The governor says he has already received a lot of positive responses.

“The first front is a fight for medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE),” Cooper said. “Emergency Management Teams are working around the clock to find equipment that we so badly need.”

As of Friday morning, there have been nearly 2,100 positive coronavirus cases in North Carolina, with 20 deaths.

North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry says the state received three shipments, 33 percent, of what it asked for from the national stockpile.

The state needs more supplies, but no additional shipments are expected.

“This is a bad situation,” Cooper said. “We know we can’t rely solely on the national stockpile."

“We are aggressively hunting down materials,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, with the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).

Members of the North Carolina National guard, NCDPS, and NCEM delivered medical supplies around the state from the Strategic National Stockpile, as medical personnel burns through personal protective equipment amid the coronavirus pandemic.

WATCH LIVE | NC CORONAVIRUS: Gov. Cooper is discussing COVID-19 in North Carolina after nearly 2,100 people tested positive for the virus across the state. 20 deaths have been reported » https://bit.ly/3bS1RAu

Posted by WBTV News on Friday, April 3, 2020

Teams continue to buy supplies but little of what has been ordered has been delivered.

Cooper says he activated a number of members from the National Guard to help unload the available supplies and get the personal protective equipment to areas where it’s needed.

County and state health officials say medical personnel are burning through personal protective equipment (PPE) and they’re only receiving a small fraction of what they’re requesting from the Strategic National Stockpile.

Members of the North Carolina National guard, NCDPS, and NCEM delivered medical supplies around the state from the Strategic National Stockpile, as medical personnel burns through personal protective equipment amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Members of the North Carolina National guard, NCDPS, and NCEM delivered medical supplies around the state from the Strategic National Stockpile, as medical personnel burns through personal protective equipment amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Source: North Carolina)

The initial update came during a North Carolina House Committee meeting on healthcare and COVID-19, after state representatives raised concerns about the amount of available PPE and the lack of testing for healthcare workers.

“One of the concerns now is, inside the facilities, are we keeping our staff healthy enough that they’re not a source of transmission?” State Representative Carla Cunningham told WBTV. “I think if they’re the front line they should definitely be the people that are being tested so that we know that they’re healthy and that they’re staying healthy.”

On Wednesday, it was announced that an employee for MEDIC tested positive for COVID-19. Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said that a person was quarantined before they started exhibiting any symptoms.

During the committee meeting, Harris said that medical personnel working for her are currently burning through PPE but they’re not rationing it yet.

Harris said that Mecklenburg County just received 14 palettes of PPE such as masks and gowns from the Strategic National Stockpile but as a whole, the state is only receiving a small amount of what they’re asking for.

“From what I understand when we put a request in, we’re still only receiving about 17% of what we’re requesting,” Cunningham said.

Sprayberry, the NCEM director, reiterated Cunningham’s statement Friday, saying the state is only receiving a third of the PPE that’s being requested.

Cooper says he wants medical personnel to be “first in line” to get masks. He advises the best way for the public to slow the spread of the virus is to “stay home.”

“Most states are on the open market realizing that the federal government just doesn’t have it [PPE] to give to them right now,” Cooper said of medical supplies.

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