Healthcare workers have launched their own campaigns for gathering personal protective equipment as they fight the coronavirus on the frontlines, with #GetUsPPE trending across social media.
Local leaders and companies have said they will increase the production of vital protective equipment, like N-95 masks and gowns, but there’s a lag between production and delivery, one of the founders of GetUSPPE.org told Cheddar on Wednesday.
States are making piecemeal work of preparing for soon-to-arrive coronavirus cases, but healthcare workers around the nation are warning they are unprepared due to a lack of personal protective equipment. President Trump has said the federal government will distribute goods from its strategic reserves and through increased production by the private sector.
Dr. Megan Ranney, a practicing physician and a professor of emergency medicine at Rhode Island Hospital/Alpert Medical School of Brown University, said the existing national stockpile “is vastly insufficient for what is needed,” and the increased production takes time to ramp up.
#GetUsPPE went viral and a week later the hashtag has turned into real-world action, gathering supplies from those who have them and distributing the goods to healthcare workers across all 50 states, said Dr. Ranney.
Based on reports the organization is receiving, Dr. Ranney told Cheddar “we’ve facilitated the transfer of tens of thousands of pieces of PPE to healthcare workers on the front lines.” On both sides of the equation, GetUsPPE.org is trying to connect individuals as well as large groups. People with a few extra masks at home are encouraged to donate as well.
She said those numbers will grow over the next week. Yet, though the movement has seen some success, so far the results are “absolutely insufficient, and our goal is to do so much more than that.”
“We’re working with larger entities to make this delivery in the millions,” she said, though Dr. Ranney did not disclose any names of those entities.
“If there are larger companies who have the resources to purchase and donate, we are working to help facilitate those matching of larger quantity donations to healthcare facilities in need,” Dr. Ranney said. The group, housed legally under AFFIRM Research, a 501 (c)(3), has a matching process that allows individual healthcare workers or an entire healthcare system to say they have a need for gear.
One of the concerns is equitable distribution. California Governor Gavin Newsom, who has said the state is ramping up its procurement of gear, also warned some states with smaller budgets may lose out in that search.
Dr. Ranney said after her fellow emergency physician Dr. Esther Choo coined the term #GetMePPE on Twitter, emergency physician Dr. Shuhan He of Massachusetts General Hospital set up a “rudimentary website.” Over the course of the last weekend, more than 100 software developers across the country donated hundreds of hours to build a more substantial website to connect those with donations to those in need.
She said the group is upgrading the website “on an hour-by-hour basis” as well as improving the intake, matching, and logistical processes of connecting donations with healthcare workers.
Dr. Ranney added that, so far, healthcare workers have been happy to receive the extra protective equipment, but "we just don't have enough donations yet."