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Shortage of masks, supplies concerns Nevada County medical facilities

Sam Corey
Staff Writer
A woman in Nevada County wears a cloth mask she made herself. A local group has been voluntarily sewing and distributing cloth masks to those that need them.
Submitted to The Union

Medical supplies are needed in California.

As the number of coronavirus cases in the state continues to rise — reaching 1,940 cases and 38 deaths as of Monday — there is a growing concern about not having enough medical resources to treat patients and keep health care professionals safe.

On Monday, the third case of an adult younger than 65 having COVID-19 was confirmed in Nevada County.

President Donald Trump declared a major disaster in California on Sunday upon Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request, in hopes of ramping up medical resources and unemployment assistance for the state.

Health-care facilities have already become inundated with patients.

“Hospitals and health-care facilities are overwhelmed even with having rescheduled elective surgeries,” Newsom states in a letter to the president, adding that he expects the “case count to continue to rise for several weeks.” The state has been retrofitting hotels with hospital equipment to meet the rising demand.

While local medical facilities are beginning to fear a possible shortage of medical supplies, like N95 masks, Dr. Roger Hicks, owner of Yubadocs Urgent Care, said things are much worse in New York and the Bay Area, where there aren’t an adequate supply of test kits.

Yubadocs is well supplied with masks, face shields, gloves and gowns — but that might not always be the case.

“The problem is the supply chain is severely impacted,” said Hicks. “We don’t know what the future demands will be and how often we’ll be able to resupply. The situation is so fluid, it changes day-by-day.”

Yubadocs administrator Rose Wood said the number of patients the urgent care sees can vary from 15 to 75 per day. Wood and Hicks said supplies, like N95 masks, are distributed from vendors based on their previous orders. That means supplies can be difficult to acquire in bulk if the medical center wasn’t ordering them in the past.

A spokesperson from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital said that while it has enough N95 masks, the hospital is “concerned with keeping up with demand,” and are reaching out to the county and community for additional supplies and donations.

Dr. Andrew Burt of Sierra Care Physicians in Penn Valley said in about a week his practice will be out of personal protective equipment, including gloves and masks.

Burt said he was making an “urgent request” from the Nevada County public to send such materials purchased online to primary care offices or to the local hospital.

“These supplies should not be worn while at the grocery store, but should be saved for use by health-care workers,” he states.

Healthy people do not need to wear a face mask, according to a Nevada County spokesperson, but can be appropriate for someone who has been infected by the virus. The best thing to do, according to the county office, is stay home whenever possible.

Burt agreed.

“If you’re sick, you shouldn’t be going out,” he said.

ONGOING EFFORTS

For the past few days, a group of county residents has been sewing cloth masks and distributing them to those who need them — mostly people in nursing homes, according to group member Tiffany Nelson.

The Nevada County Masks for COVID-19 Facebook group, which has over 85 members, was assembled to help prevent people from getting sick. Nelson said she’s delivered anywhere from 75 to 100 masks.

“Yeah,” she said. “My hands are a little sore.”

While not as good as surgical or N95 masks, Hicks said cloth masks are “far superior to nothing.” Burt suggested that cloth masks be used by individuals who are sick, and that those individuals donate their gloves and surgical or N95 masks to local medical providers.

Ray Byers Jr. of Byers Enterprises said he’s been reaching out to nurses and medical clinics locally to see who needs any of his supply of about 50 N95 masks.

“They’re close to heart,” he said. “I want to donate directly to them.”

Byers said Monday his masks likely will be gone that day, most of them going to local medical clinics.

“It’s reassuring to see folks come together and toward the common good,” he said. “The biggest thing we can look at is the uplifting part.”

North America’s Building Trades Unions, in collaboration with 14 unions and National Nurses United, will be donating an unknown sum of N95 masks to health-care workers.

Multinational conglomerate corporation 3M says it has been producing over 100 million N95 masks since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. On Monday, 3M CEO Mike Roman told CNBC he was unhappy to find the respirator masks at retail stores instead of being directed to health-care workers.

“We’re ready to expedite respirators to wherever they’re needed,” said the CEO.

Trump recently ordered the production of over 600 million masks for hospitals, according to Yahoo News, but there was no known timeline for distribution.

Despite the crisis, Hicks advocated people don’t panic, noting that there’s good teamwork and communication between local public health officials.

“We are taking every precaution to keep our patients safe,” he said.

Yubadocs will soon begin conducting telemedicine, holding videoconferences with patients, said Hicks.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.


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