Community gathers PPE for local emergency groups

Volunteers are stationed at Florence Public Works during the week to collect Personal Protective Equipment from the community.

April 4, 2020 — The COVID- 19 emergency has not only shaken the collective consciousness of Americans, it has revealed a number of problems with the medical supply model currently in place. Most noticeably at this time is a severe shortage of equipment that is meant to protect those at risk of infection.

Medical first responders in Florence and nationwide are experiencing shortages in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) of all types, but there is a critical need at this time for appropriate protective masks.

The City of Florence and West Lane Emergency Operations Group (WLEOG) has recognized this problem and has initiated a PPE donation program to assist in the collection and distribution of items needed by medical personnel. Donations of PPEs from the community may be dropped off on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the City of Florence Public Works Facility, 2675 Kingwood St.

The city has put in place measures to assure safety for Public Works employees and volunteers helping with the collection. Most importantly, donators should place items in the trunk/back hatch of the vehicle and are asked to not exit the vehicle.

A designee from the Emergency Operations Center will then remove the items and place them in donation bins.

WLEOG is designated as the primary entity tasked with guiding the Siuslaw region through this emergency by coordinating a Western Lane Emergency Operations Center, in coordination with the Lane County Emergency Operations Center.

“It is essential to have PPE on hand to prepare for possible surges in the number of local cases,” stated a March 27 press release from WLEOG. “Please consider donating your surplus PPE, including new masks, gowns and gloves. This applies to medical professionals — doctor, dentist, veterinarian, etc. — or non-health care private businesses such as contractors or electricians.”

WLEOG Public Information Officer Megan Messmer provided an update on the collection effort’s first week and commented on the support of local residents.

“We appreciate the generosity of our community and encourage continued donations. West Lane County is coordinating with Lane County on inventorying donations. As of Thursday, April 2, we had received more than 60 masks — including hand-sewn masks and about a dozen much-needed N95 masks, approximately 250 pairs of nitrile gloves and more than a dozen disposable full-body coveralls,” Messmer said.

People who wish to sew their own masks may reference PeaceHealth Peace Harbor’s recommended pattern at www.peacehealth.org/coronavirus. To purchase a mask from a local family — $10 each, available in both child and adult sizes — contact Sabrina Hand at 541-999-5184 or [email protected] The Hands are donating two masks for every mask they sell.

“The West Lane Emergency Operations Group, PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Medical Center and the City of Florence send out a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has stepped up to help us care for our community in these challenging times,” Messmer said.

On a related note, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released a COVID-19 warning about unsolicited calls claiming to represent those affected by the virus.

“Taxpayers should be extra vigilant for unsolicited phone calls or emails concerning their economic impact payments,” said Justin Campbell, Special Agent in Charge of the Seattle Field Office for IRS-CI. “The IRS will not call or email you about your payment. IRS-Criminal Investigation is stepping up our efforts in coordination with the Department of Justice to aggressively investigate anyone that seeks to defraud our community members during this crisis.”

Law enforcement officials are requesting caution on the part of consumers and asking for help in deterring criminals.

U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams said, “We are aware of instances of consumer fraud stemming from the COVID-19 public health emergency. While Americans work to protect themselves and their loved ones from the threat of COVID-19, some individuals are actively trying to profit off of this emergency. If you or someone you know believe you’ve been the target or victim of an outbreak-related fraud scheme, please contact law enforcement immediately.”

The following recommendations appear on Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s coronavirus webpage, govstatus.egov.com/or-covid-19. “All community members should stay home except to perform essential duties for business continuity or government functions, to get food, care for a relative or friend, get necessary health care, or perform activities related to maintaining a healthy lifestyle during this time. It is okay to go outside for walks if you are not in a group and practice proper social distancing. It is not okay to travel to another community, including the Oregon Coast, in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

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