UPDATE: Fund for Santa Clara County nurses raises nearly $600K as more first responders fall sick with coronavirus
Local leaders are spearheading a drive for medical supplies for Santa Clara County nurses amid the coronavirus outbreak. Photo courtesy of Supervisor Cindy Chavez's office.

One day after Santa Clara County nurses put out a plea for donations of medical safety supplies to protect themselves from the coronavirus pandemic, a powerful group of allies came together to answer the need.

On Friday, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group announced it had launched a drive to collect money and supplies for the Valley Medical Center Foundation, which will go to all of the hospitals in the Santa Clara County health care system.

Though it launched just yesterday, already the fund has raised more than $596,000 as well as surgical masks, hazmat suits, ventilators and gloves from the local business community, Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, said Friday.

“As impressive as these initial steps are, let me emphasize these only are initial steps,” Guardino said. “Silicon Valley must step up even more to ensure we have a healthy region while ensuring we have a healthy economy.”

San Jose Assemblymember Ash Kalra joined local leaders in urging the community to donate equipment and money to help health care workers protect themselves from the virus.

“As our first responders, doctors, and nurses risk their safety during the coronavirus outbreak, they are now lacking the basic tools to do their jobs right, and to do them safely,” Kalra said in a statement Friday evening. “I understand the desire for the public to hold on to many of these items, however, our frontline medical staff need them more than we do.”

The plea from nurses comes as the San Jose Police Department confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, and the San Jose Fire Department’s confirmed cases rose to 13 on Friday. In Santa Clara, city officials this week confirmed one police officer had been diagnosed with the fast-spreading virus.

As of Friday, there were 198 confirmed cases of coronavirus and eight deaths in Santa Clara County.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday issued a “stay at home” order to “bend the curve,” or slow the spread of the deadly illness throughout the state. He promised that 10 million masks were on their way to hospitals around California from the state’s own cache of equipment. But for now, some hospitals are running low.

Among the donors:

  • Western Digital: 140,000 surgical masks and 4,000 gloves
  • BYD: 5,000 surgical masks 2,000 bottles of hand sanitizer
  • IBM: 15,000 surgical masks
  • KLA: 2,000 medical-grade hazmat suits
  • Lumileds: 1,200 respirators and 1,300 surgical masks
  • Supermicro: 10,000 surgical masks
  • Among the top donors is Silicon Valley Bank President and CEO Greg Becker, who has pledged $500,000 to purchasing the medical supplies

And regular residents without caches of thousands of masks can help, Michael Elliot, CEO at the Valley Medical Foundation said.

“Folks are asking, ‘I’ve got 10 masks, I’ve got a couple bottles of hand sanitizer, I’ve got some disinfectant wipes, will that help?’” He said. “Absolutely.”

Find out more about how you can donate money or supplies here.

Indeed, the need is high among hospitals across California. Newsom this week said some front-line medical workers were purchasing makeshift protective equipment like swim goggles and gloves from hardware stores as supplies run low.

“We are answering the call to service, but we need the basic tools to do our jobs right, and do them safely,” Debbie Chang, a registered nurse and Registered Nurses Professional Association president, said in a statement Thursday. “At this critical moment, nurses are turning to our friends and neighbors for help. If you or anyone you know happens to have a surplus of supplies, please consider donating to our frontline health care professionals.”

Specifically, the association says local nurses need:

  • Masks
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Protective googles and face shields
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Infrared thermometers
  • Shoe covers
  • Hair covers and surgical caps

Residents and companies who want to make a donation can reach RNPA at (408) 292-6061 or by email at info@rnpa.net.

Director of Nursing Professional Practice at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Melissa Murphy, poses with some of the face masks donated by IBM this week. Image courtesy of IBM

IBM this week announced it had sent 15,000 face masks to the Santa Clara County hospital system for frontline medical staff at O’Connor Hospital, St. Louise Regional Hospital and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

San Jose leaders contacted local businesses this week asking for supplies to combat the spread of COVID-19, prompting IBM to dig into a stash of unused masks the company purchased last year as the Bay Area filled with hazardous smoke from wildfires to the north, according to a release Thursday.

IBM’s Senior Location Manager Laura Guio and Program Director Chris Akey pushed to donate the masks “in less than 24 hours from the call with the mayor,” according to a statement by IBM.

But many hospitals are going through about 400 masks a day, IBM noted, meaning more will likely be needed before the coronavirus outbreak subsides.

“This equipment makes sure front-line personnel can continue to provide care, but also to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from one patient to another. We appreciate any support that you can offer,” said Jeff Chien, medical director for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s Department of Emergency Medicine.

First responders test positive

Meanwhile, more first responders in the South Bay have fallen ill from the virus and dozens more are under quarantine.

So far, 13 members of the San Jose Fire Department have tested positive for coronavirus while 76 are being monitored for possible exposure, officials said Thursday.

That’s up from Monday, when 10 firefighters had tested positive with 54 others possibly exposed.

On Thursday, the fire department tweeted one firefighter who tested positive was released from the hospital and is recovering at home. The other 10 firefighters have reported “mild to moderate symptoms,” officials said.

San Jose Police Officers Association president Paul Kelly speaks during a news conference Thursday about the coronavirus outbreak. Photo courtesy of San Jose Police Officers Association.

Also Thursday, law enforcement leaders announced the first case of COVID-19 at the San Jose Police Department. A reserve officer reported they’d tested positive around March 12.

Currently, 40 to 50 officers are self-isolating, including detectives in the family violence unit and police reserves who met at an offsite police location.

But there’s a silver lining, according to the San Jose Police Officers Association.

New rules have been set into motion, including a self-isolation requirement when an officer comes into contact with the virus — even if they aren’t showing any symptoms.

“Weeks ago, we had police officers that were exposed, but if they didn’t have symptoms they’d return to work the next day,” said Paul Kelly, president of the San Jose Police Officers Association. “We’ve been pushing and talking to the chief’s office and city about it and we are happy to say we are there.”

Officers and other first responders, including firefighters, EMT and other medical staff, in Santa Clara County will now qualify for expedited coronavirus testing if they show symptoms of the virus, the county announced Thursday.

That’s a needed step to ensure the virus doesn’t spread and that non-infected officers can get back to work more quickly, Kelly said.

“All cities should follow suit for the safety of their community and also the safety of police officers and their families,” he said.

Follow along with San José Spotlight’s real-time coronavirus coverage on our LIVE BLOG here.

Eduardo Cuevas contributed to this report.

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter. Contact Eduardo Cuevas at eduardomcuevas@gmail.com or follow @eduardomcuevas on Twitter.

This story has been updated to reflect the most recent rate of infection and deaths due to the coronavirus in Santa Clara County, as well as the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s fundraising drive for the Valley Medical Center Foundation.

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