Sumner County Emergency Medical Services has begun using larger safety masks as the department’s supply of personal protective equipment begins to run low. Photo courtesy of Sumner County EMS

Supplies of personal protective equipment and other disinfecting products used by local medical and public safety workers are beginning to run low as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in Sumner County.

As a result of the dwindling stock, Sumner County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) along with Sumner County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) have started collecting donations of various new and unopened medical supplies at the Sumner County Emergency Services Center located at 255 Airport Rd. in Gallatin.

“We are not critical yet, but the sad thing is we know that within the next two weeks we’re going to become critical with some stuff,” Sumner County EMS Chief Greg Miller said Wednesday. “If the number of calls continue to escalate the way they are, we have a concern that there will be a time in which we have a lapse in (personal protective equipment) before any additional shipments come in.”

Medical equipment needed include non-latex medical grade gloves, medical grade face shields, eye protection, N95 masks, surgical masks, gowns, non-contact thermometers and thermometer probe covers. Disinfectants needed include Sani wipes, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizers, aerosol and liquid hospital grade disinfectants and Lysol cans and wipes.

While officials are working daily to find more equipment and supplies, officials say orders could take as many as four to five weeks before arriving.

“When all of the stores got their shelves wiped clean, it impacted more than just households,” Miller said. “It impacted the same supplies that hospitals use and that EMS agencies use. We can’t even get bulk sanitizing equipment from suppliers now. Everything is gone off the shelves with no concrete availability.”

Dispatchers in Sumner County have been asking 911 callers additional questions since late February to help determine if first responders needed to wear personal protective equipment that would limit potential exposure to COVID-19, according to Miller.

As of Wednesday, there were 784 confirmed cases of the virus in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Of those, 36 were in Sumner County. There have also been 53 hospitalizations and three deaths caused by the virus statewide.

“I think a lot of people are being lulled to sleep by these numbers,” Miller cautioned about the small amount of confirmed local cases. “Our numbers are way, way behind because the labs are so far behind.

“When all of these tests come back… and people see a big jump to whatever it could potentially go to, I think it’s going to cause some panic for some people.”

Currently, there are an estimated 300 to 400 tests still waiting to be processed, Miller added.

Local city and county leaders have asked residents to stay home as much as possible and follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

“I want to caution everybody to take this seriously,” Miller added. “If they don’t take it seriously, it’s not going to go away. It’s going to last longer.

“(The virus) will grow to the point that it infects enough people to where you’ll have a lot more deaths involved.”

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