Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Preparing for the future

PPE ready for responders, health care agencies
Thursday, May 21, 2020
Article Image Alt Text

Leader photos by NANCY BERGERON

Lincoln Parish Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Kip Franklin checks a package of masks as part of a shipment of personal protective equipment his office has ready for first responders and health care workers.

Article Image Alt Text

Lincoln Parish Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Kip Franklin looks at the boxes of personal protective equipment lining a hallway at the Lincoln Parish Public Safety Complex.

What a difference nine weeks makes.

When Lincoln Parish Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Kip Franklin made his first request for gowns and masks for frontline personnel encountering the novel coronavirus, he couldn’t get it.

The state warehouse didn’t have it.

Now, row upon row of box upon box of surgical gloves, gowns, full body Tyvek protective suits, and cartons of hand sanitizer line the hallway leading to Franklin’s office at the Lincoln Parish Public Safety Complex.

More boxes are stacked in an adjoining office and supply closet.

“It looks like you’re hoarding this stuff, but you’re really preparing for the future,” Franklin said.

All of the personal protective equipment is earmarked for local first responder agencies, healthcare and hospital workers. It isn’t available for businesses, churches or personal use.

“My office has supplied somewhere between 50 and 60 agencies,” Franklin said.

That includes body bags to funeral homes for transporting deceased COVID-19 patients. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus.

How long the supply of PPE items will last depends partly on how fast receiving agencies use it. And to a large extent, use depends on the virus itself.

As of noon Wednesday, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) reported 122 cases of COVID-19 in Lincoln Parish. Fourteen parish residents have succumbed to the disease, according to LDH.

But as has happened before, the numbers don’t necessarily match up. The list of known cases still includes several people not from Lincoln Parish, as well as duplicate entries for people who have tested positive more than once.

It also includes the initial COVID-19 positive determination for the people who have died plus an undetermined number of people who have recovered.

Though testing continues, and will ramp up a bit more beginning next week when free drive-thru do-it-yourself tests are offered across the parish, the frequency of newly reported cases in comparison with the increasing number of test, appears to be stabilizing.

As of Wednesday, LDH reported 1,313 tests done on parish residents, up from 1,286 on Tuesday. But, as with the confirmed case number, the testing number also includes any duplicate entries for patients tested more than once during their illness.

Lincoln Parish recorded its first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on March 22. Four days before that, Franklin made his first request to the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for MRE meals and water to put in the local warehouse.

He also requested gowns and masks for first responders and health care workers. But initially, to no avail.

“Back in the early stages of this we couldn’t get anything,” Franklin said.

And what he did get, he distributed almost as fast as it came in. First responders and healthcare agencies couldn’t get PPE through their normal suppliers; there wasn’t any.

Though some of the agencies had PPE on hand, most didn’t have the volume they suddenly needed as the pandemic grew.

Local emergency preparedness agencies request PPE from GOSHEP through WebEOC, a secure, internet-based emergency information management application. GOSHEP’s stockpile is warehoused in Baton Rouge.

So far, Louisiana has spent more than $5 million in emergency protective measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of which was for PPE.

The PPE items are free to parish emergency management agencies. When Franklin makes a request, the items typically arrive within 24 hours — delivered by the Louisiana National Guard.

Franklin plans to use some of the PPE on hand to put together what he calls “reserve kits” — batches of basic PPE items that agencies can have on hand just in case the virus rebounds.

“If it resurges, then you have something to start with where you didn’t before,” he said.