Anyone who has a large cache of medical protective equipment, like gloves, goggles and masks, should make an inventory list now because Santa Clara County officials are taking a tally.
Businesses and people are required to report by April 15 to the county if they have a ventilator in any condition or more than 5,000 nitrile or vinyl gloves, 500 N95 masks, 100 safety goggles, 100 face shields or a gallon or more of hand sanitizer, county officials announced Wednesday. The order comes as the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the county, though at a slower pace than a couple weeks ago following a shelter in place order that has shuttered business, schools and kept people home.
As of Wednesday, 1,380 people had tested positive for the virus and 46 had died in the county. But statewide, the day marked the highest reported death toll from the virus, with 68 people dying within 24 hours, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said. Throughout the state, 16,957 people have tested positive and 442 had died as of Wednesday.
Santa Clara County officials say they want to know who has a large number of medical supplies in the region in case local hospitals see a surge in patients and need more supplies to protect doctors, nurses and other frontline workers quickly. Inventory can be confidentially reported on the Public Health Department website, according to Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams.
“We know that there are actually many businesses in our community that do have some significant stocks of this kind of PPE, many of them are not being used right now,” Williams said Wednesday. “Getting this awareness will help us know what supply we can source here locally so we are not as reliant on scarce state and federal supplies.”
But state supplies are expected to increase soon, according to Newsom and Mark Ghilarducci, director of the governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
California officials have created a new “sustainable pipeline” that will bring 200 million masks to the state monthly, via a slew of new agreements with nonprofit and private organizations. Those agreements will allow California to buy 150 million N95 masks and 50 million surgical masks monthly, though officials are still working to secure similar agreement for other kinds of protective equipment.
In the coming week, the state will also acquire technology from defense contractor Patel that will sterilize as many as 80,000 masks daily so they can be reused.
“These are all sustainable, they will meet our needs in the short-, medium- and long-term,” Ghilarducci said. “It’s leveraging the power of California’s buying capability, it is leveraging the great relationships we have with many organizations and agencies to build the capacity that we need.”
To help fund that work, California has also asked the federal government for $1.4 billion from the Disaster Response Emergency Operations Account to purchase personal protective equipment. Newsom said the supplies would go not only to medical workers, but also to other frontline workers like grocery store employees.
The effort to get and clean masks would ease local need, and that where possible, California will help other states with procuring protective equipment, the governor added.
“We need to go boldly and we need to meet this moment without playing small ball any longer,” Newsom said. “We need to coordinate and organize our nation-state status … with our procurement capacity that quite literally is second only to the United States itself.”
But in the South Bay, health officials are still concerned that supplies will run low. The order to report large caches of supplies comes as some nurses in Santa Clara County told San José Spotlight they aren’t being adequately protected while working with coronavirus patients.
Dr. Jennifer Tong, medical director for the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said Wednesday the county has appropriate supplies. Health officials are bracing for a projected surge in patients, as California is expected to hit its coronavirus peak in mid-May, according to Newsom.
“This is really an opportunity for our community to come together collectively,” Tong said. “Most likely all of us will be impacted by knowing someone affected by COVID-19. And so through this collective effort, we can all achieve a better state together.”
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Eduardo Cuevas contributed to this report.