Quad-Cities first responders concerned about PPE supply in continuing pandemic

Some first responders in the Quad-Cities are reporting an uptick in calls requiring extra PPE


Anthony Watt
Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, Ill.

MOLINE, Ill. — Quad-Cities first responders expressed concern Thursday about maintaining levels of needed personal protective equipment (PPE) as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to climb.

Linda Frederiksen, executive director of MEDIC EMS, said during an afternoon news conference that there had been nearly 980 calls since March in which her personnel needed to wear extra protective equipment as a precaution. Of those, 66 involved patients who did test positive for the coronavirus and about 33% (22) of those positive patients were transported during the first half of July.

Moline Fire Department officials have expressed concern about restocking PPE as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the Quad-Cities. (Photo/Moline Fire Department Facebook)
Moline Fire Department officials have expressed concern about restocking PPE as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the Quad-Cities. (Photo/Moline Fire Department Facebook)

The next highest number was 32%, during the entire month of April, according to a news release that accompanied the conference.

“We can definitely see an uptick,” Frederiksen said.

The Moline Fire Department has not seen a similar climb in transports in July, the release stated. Of the 18 positive cases transported, 10 were in April. Only one has been in July.

Travis Noyd, deputy chief of the Moline Fire Department, said there was, however, a difference in call volume between the two agencies.

Firefighters, as a precaution, have been assuming the coronavirus is present when transporting patients, Noyd said. That means the department is using up supplies of PPE faster than it would prefer.

Noyd said it had been challenging to restock protective equipment, and with people moving around more than they were earlier in the pandemic, the fire department is answering more calls.

“We’re seeing some difficulty with that,” Noyd said.

Some supplies MEDIC requested in January still have not arrived, Frederiksen said.

“We could see some concerns with gloves,” Frederiksen said.

MEDIC ambulance crews have always worn those on every call, she said.

Another potential concern is masks and face coverings, Frederiksen said. The kind that her employees use must be fitted and there are many varieties. That means 160 masks must be expended every time a fitting is necessary.

Both said their agencies also used masks on patients when they could, they said.

For MEDIC, that is potentially another 2,000 masks every month.

“Are we going to be able to get those?” she said.

She said there was a good reserve of them available in Scott County but could not provide an exact number.

Both agencies take other precautions to pinpoint the presence of the virus and limit exposure, they said.

Dispatchers try to screen the calls for service to determine whether coronavirus is present, they said.

If possible, fire crews will have someone come to the door rather than enter a residence, Noyd said.

“Try not to enter into a closed environment as much as possible,” he said.

Frederiksen reminded Quad-Citians to take the precautions recommended that could slow the coronavirus’ spread — wearing face coverings, maintaining social distancing and not going out unless necessary.

She and Noyd said anyone who did not feel well should stay home.

“The days of coming to work when you have a cold are over,” Frederiksen said.

In the Quad-Cities and the bi-state region, the number of cases continued to increase Thursday.

In Rock Island County, 20 new cases were reported, bringing the county’s total to 1,285 people who have contracted the virus.

Scott County reported its total number of cases was now at 1,203 compared with the 1,152 reported Wednesday.

Neither county reported new deaths, leaving the toll in Rock Island County at 30 and in Scott County, 10.

Illinois’ total number of cases was at 157,950 on Thursday, an increase of more than 1,200 people over Wednesday’s count. The number of deaths was at 7,251, up 25 from Wednesday.

There were 37,217 people with coronavirus in Iowa Thursday, 923 more people than reported Wednesday. Deaths were at 781 compared with 767 on Wednesday.

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©2020 Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, Ill.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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