Currently, Maricopa County and Arizona are experiencing a supply problem acquiring Personal Protective Equipment, according to a release.
PPE is defined as surgical and N95 masks, surgical gowns and gloves, face shields and any other equipment needed to protect the wearer from exposure. PPE is most important for healthcare workers and those caring for sick and/or vulnerable individuals.
In response to this need, the federal government has provided 75% of Arizona’s allotment of the Strategic National Stockpile.
“Although helpful, these allocations are nowhere close to what is needed in a community of our size,” stated Marcy Flanagan, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “To put this into perspective, hospital systems use about 544,000 surgical masks per week. In our three shipments of the SNS, we received a total of 263,480 surgical masks.”
In response to this need for PPE, MCDPH has had to make difficult decisions on how to distribute its limited allotment of the SNS, the release states. Much of the first distribution was sent to acute care hospitals and EMS. As the second and third distribution was allotted to Maricopa County, public health began identifying outbreaks related to long term care.
There are more than 500 long term care facilities in Maricopa County made up of skilled nursing facilities, nursing Homes, assisted living and hospice, according to the release. To date, there are 66 cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths in the county that have been linked to 22 long term care facilities, officials stated.
“What we have learned from states like Washington is that when a case of COVID-19 is identified in a long term care facility, there is greater risk of severe disease and spread due to the age and overall health of people living in these facilities and the fact they often dine and do activities together,” stated Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for disease control at Maricopa County Department of Public Health.
Before cases were even identified, MCDPH, in accordance with Gov. Doug Ducey's executive order, reached out to facilities and gave them specific strategies to keep disease from coming into the facility, both from visitors and staff providing care. Once a case is identified in a facility, MCDPH works directly with that facility to implement a series of infection control recommendations. These recommendations are meant to control any spread of the disease between residents and staff in the facility and to protect staff caring for infected individuals. This includes having residents restricted to their rooms, even for meals and strict isolation precautions for anyone with symptoms.
The CDC has recommended that in facilities that identify even one case of COVID-19, that every single patient should be put in isolation precautions. What that means is that healthcare workers have to wear gloves, gown, mask, and eye shield every time they walk in the room of any resident.
“We know from seeing these outbreaks in other communities that this strategy works and it is the best way to control the spread of the virus in these facilities. However, the only way that our facilities can follow these practices is to provide enough PPE for long-term care to be able to follow this guidance,” Dr. Sunenshine stated.
“This is why we have made the decision to prioritize PPE for long-term care facilities that have confirmed COVID-19 cases. We believe our limited supply of masks and gloves will have the most impact in long term care facilities where it will protect the lives of our loved ones who are at the highest risk of severe disease and will also keep them out of the hospital, reducing stress on the healthcare system,” Dr. Sunenshine added.
Long term care guidance can be found at maricopa.gov/covid19/long-term-care.
Information on COVID-19 including case counts can be found at www.maricopa.gov/COVID19