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Long-Term Care Gets Priority Access To Personal Protective Equipment In Maricopa County

Published: Monday, April 6, 2020 - 5:15pm
Updated: Wednesday, April 15, 2020 - 8:21pm
Kathy Ritchie/KJZZ
Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine

With personal protective equipment in short supply, Maricopa County officials said they’ll give long-term care facilities priority access to gloves, masks and gowns during the pandemic.

Hospice care, nursing facilities, nursing homes and assisted living facilities serve a population of county residents that’s older and more vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus.

Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, the county’s medical director for disease control, said a single case in nursing homes or assisted living facilities can lead to rapid spread. She cited reports of rampant spread at a nursing home in Washington state as a cautionary tale.

When a coronavirus case is identified at a long-term care facility, the county helps caretakers develop strategies to halt the spread of the disease, Sunenshine said.

→ Attention Arizona Long-Term Care Facility Workers, Clients: We Want To Hear From You

“This includes having residents stay mainly in their rooms, including for meals, and canceling all group activities, as well as putting every single resident in isolation precautions, who has symptoms,” she said.

Federal guidelines have recently suggested putting all residents, regardless of whether they’re exhibiting symptoms, into that isolation protocol.

“The only way that long-term care facilities can follow these practices is if we provide them with the personal protective equipment that they need to make it happen,” Sunenshine said. “This is why we have made the decision to prioritize our limited supply of PPE to long-term care settings.”

Protecting the county’s most vulnerable residents can have a ripple effect throughout the entire health care system, she said.

“We believe that the limited number of masks and gowns and gloves will have the biggest 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 it will also keep them out of the hospital and reduce stress on the health care system,” Sunenshine said.

There are more than 500 long-term care facilities in Maricopa County. As of Monday, Sunenshine said the county has identified 66 cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths linked to 22 long-term care facilities.

The county will begin releasing detailed data about those cases and deaths on Tuesday, she said.

Marcy Flanagan, Maricopa County’s public health director, said county officials are exploring all avenues to obtain more PPE, and have encouraged hospitals that are able to purchase their own equipment to do so.

Arizona has received a portion of its share of the national stockpile of PPE, but Maricopa County’s portion will have a limited impact, Flanagan said.

“To put this into perspective, our health care and hospital systems use about 544,000 surgical masks per week. For our entire allocation, we received 263,000 surgical masks,” she said. “As you can see and hear, this amount will not support our hospitals for even a week, so we had to determine who we were going to give this PPE to in a strategic way that meant the most benefit for our entire community.”

To date, Arizona as a whole has received 75% of its allocation from the national stockpile, Flanagan said.

Maricopa County has received 100 percent of its portion of the statewide allocation, including more than 263,000 surgical masks, over 108,000 N95 masks, 162,000 gloves and nearly 33,000 face shields.

→ Read The Latest News On The Coronavirus Disease 

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