The Washington State Hospital Association has delivered 40,000 surgical face masks to Clallam County.
Of the masks that arrived Thursday, 30,000 went to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles and Sequim, and 10,000 were earmarked for Forks Community Hospital, authorities said.
Jefferson Healthcare hospital in Port Townsend was not one of the hospitals to benefit from the initial delivery from the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA), but the Jefferson Emergency Operations Center has been ordering more personal protective equipment for the county, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.
“Really, all hospitals have a need for critical supplies,” Locke said. “This emergency has shown us that hospitals have an inadequate inventory of protective equipment.”
Cassie Sauer, WSHA president and CEO, said Thursday’s delivery to nine facilities statewide was just the first round, and more deliveries are expected.
The number of COVID-19 cases on the North Olympic Peninsula remained at 42 positive cases as of Thursday, with 14 confirmations in Clallam and 28 in Jefferson County, officials said.
In Clallam County, 806 tests have been conducted with 14 positive, 742 negative and 50 pending. Ten of the 14 patients have recovered, Clallam County Undersheriff Ron Cameron said during the Thursday morning COVID-19 briefing.
In Jefferson County, 705 tests have been conducted, with 28 positive, 673 negative and four tests pending, for a total infection rate of 4 percent for returned tests, Locke said.
None of those who tested positive are hospitalized.
The delivery of face masks is meant to prepare for an uptick in cases that is expected once the restrictions put in place by Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order is lifted, said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.
Health care workers are using masks daily as they see patients and perform tests.
“By getting more masks to our hospitals, it will keep our health care workers safe and help prevent the spread of infection,” Unthank said.
“While we do plan on opening, we have to wait for the right time. It’s soon, but not quite yet.”
The governor’s stay-home order is scheduled to end on May 4, but officials believe it will be extended and phased-in. Officials are concerned that lifting the order to soon or too quickly could erase gains made by social distancing and people staying home.
“We appreciate the Washington State Hospital Association for bolstering our procedural mask supply,” said Bobby Beeman, OMC spokesperson, in an email.
“As Olympic Medical Center encourages patients to continue to attend to their medical needs and seek the clinical care they require to be healthy and well, these masks will be incredibly valuable in those settings.
“We anticipate COVID-19 being part of our way of life for some time, and having an adequate supply of these masks positions our organization well as we navigate an environment where masks aren’t easily attainable at times.”
WSHA is working with the Washington State Rural Health Collaborative to distribute the masks. Both organizations are donating the costs of logistics and transportation.
Volunteer pilots from the Boeing Employees’ Flying Association (BEFA) delivered the masks to OMC and Forks on Thursday by plane, officials said.
“WSHA has never imported or distributed supplies to its members or other organizations, and we had no idea how to do it, but we made it happen nonetheless,” said Cassie Sauer, WSHA president and CEO.
“Our hospitals and other care providers are desperate for supplies to keep staff and patients safe. Our actions were fueled by this desperation.”
Locke said hospitals would stock only what they need and would easily be able to order more before the COVID-19 pandemic, but now there is a worldwide shortage as hospitals across the world are fighting the virus.
While the U.S. has increased production, it has not been enough to meet the need, he said.
If counties do see an increase in cases, more protective equipment will be needed, Locke said.
“The more of a surge we have in cases, the more protective equipment we need,” he said. “We think we may be at the plateau of the surge for King and Snohomish counties, but we’re not certain if and when we will see our surge.
“We’re not out of the woods yet. We’re in a public health emergency that could stretch over years versus weeks or months.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at email@example.com.