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School system donates protective gear to hospital

Amidst a worldwide shortage of personal protective equipment for medical professionals, Beaufort County Schools has donated PPE from its health sciences CTE programs to Vidant Beaufort Hospital.

Representatives from the school system delivered a carload of supplies to Vidant Beaufort on Tuesday, including 50 sets of gowns, masks and shoe coverings, 30-40 boxes of exam gloves, 15 boxes of alcohol prep pads and approximately 250 face masks.

“We didn’t have the N95 masks, but we had about five boxes of the blue masks, and there’s 50 masks in each box,” said BCS CTE Director Wendy Petteway.

According to a recent article by the Associated Press, the lack of PPE and ventilators for treating serious COVID-19 cases has become a critical issue in the U.S. and beyond. Health care workers across the country are being asked to reuse and ration disposable masks and gloves, and hospitals are even turning to the public to help sew masks for their workers.

Locally, Petteway says finding ways to help address the situation is a personal matter for school system employees.

“We’re trying to brainstorm how we can help,” Petteway said. “We have a lot of family members and friends who are health care workers and we thought, ‘How can we help locally?’”

From Vidant’s perspective, the BCS donation was welcomed with gratitude.

“Eastern North Carolina is a family, and it’s no surprise the community is rallying together and wanting to help during this difficult time,” reads a statement from the health care system. “We have received an outpouring of support from community members across the east, asking how they can help. We are grateful for Beaufort County Schools and all community partners for their support. Those who would like to donate or get involved can email vidanthealthfoundation@vidanthealth.com.”

In a March 23 letter to physicians, Vidant Chief Medical Officer Dr. Niti S. Armistead said the hospital system is looking to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as Vidant leaders make decisions about how to best equip their staff to safely care for patients. This includes updated protocols for accepting PPE donations.

“There are concerns about asymptomatic transmission and also considerations of a sure surge, for which we must prepare,” Armistead wrote to colleagues. “There is a group that has been delving into all aspects of PPE management including inventory management, securing the stock, determining appropriate conditions for extended use and reuse of facemasks and N95 respirators, scrubs and specific patient conditions and procedures.”

At the state level, North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry addressed the shortage of PPE during a press conference Tuesday, saying that early this week the state had received five truckloads of supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s largest supply of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in public health emergencies.

“We greatly appreciate the donations of personal protective supplies that are coming in from corporations and individuals,” Sprayberry said. “If you have supplies you would like to donate, you can send an email to our Business Emergency Operations Center at BEOC@ncdps.gov. We also have a logistics team working hard to source as many of these items as we can get on the private market. Obtaining these critical supplies is my top priority.”