April 20, 2020 / BY ZOË SCHLANGER
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow in the U.S., health care facilities nationwide are contending with an increasing crush of patients, and growing more and more desperate for the tools they need to protect themselves from catching and spreading the virus that causes it. A portrait of a desperately ill-equipped medical workforce is emerging from an online survey with 978 respondents, built by a grassroots organization started by doctors trying to get personal protective equipment, commonly called PPE, to facilities where it is needed most.
“We could use body bags. And eye shields and gowns!” wrote an employee at a nursing facility on Long Island in New York. “Please we don’t have anything,” wrote an employee at a regional hospital in Miami, Florida. All its beds were full, the employee wrote. They had no gowns left, and a week or less of most other PPE.
“We are out of everything,” wrote a staffer at a large hospital in Tennessee. “Providers using one mask for 3+ weeks. Many COVID patients. Zero gowns.”
At first, the organization, GetUsPPE.org, just put up a basic request form: What supplies do you need, and where are you? But within three weeks they had more than 7,000 responses. Staff members from many of the major hospital networks in the U.S. were begging for supplies. Workers from every other category of medical facility were writing in too: home health aide agencies, hospices, ambulance squads, and correctional facilities were all asking for anything they could possibly get.