Larimer County Residents Give Thousands Of Gloves, Masks To Help Virus Fight
More than 1,200 N95 masks. Nearly 100,000 gloves. Almost 40 gallons of bleach.
Residents from Fort Collins, Loveland and communities throughout northern Colorado donated thousands of items of personal protective equipment during Larimer County’s first PPE drive in the face of the local COVID-19 outbreak.
As of Saturday, the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment reported it also collected roughly 600 medical gowns, about 400 shoe covers and dozens of bottles of various cleaning supplies through various drop off locations around the county.
In a statement, Kohl Parrot, a coordinator with Larimer’s Office of Emergency Management, thanked residents for their help in the local fight against the coronavirus.
“In a time when there is so much fear and anxiety, watching the community rally around the first responders and medical providers and relinquish their supply of PPE to those who need it most is extremely moving,” Parrot said.
The supplies are being stored at more than a dozen local fire departments that participated in the countywide drive. Staff at the Larimer Emergency Operations Center have also consolidated excess supplies at their headquarters.
A county spokeswoman said the supplies will be divided up among local medical providers starting next week.
Hospitals, EMS crews and long-term care facilities with outbreaks or positive COVID-19 tests will be the first priority, the spokeswoman said. Long-term care facilities without outbreaks will come second.
In Windsor, the drive couldn’t have come at a better time.
Local first responders were desperate for more PPE, said Todd Vess, battalion chief at Windsor Severance Fire Rescue. Residents there donated more than 350 pairs of goggles and other eye protection.
“Before, we were scrambling,” Vess said. “We asked the school district to go around and collect goggles from chemistry rooms to give to first responders because we were so low.”
Erika Goetz, an office manager for the Estes Valley Fire Protection District, said in an email the response to the PPE drive in Estes Park, a community with fewer than 7,000 residents, was inspiring.
“We are at approximately 2,500 gloves, 50 safety glasses, three gallons of bleach and two dozen N95 masks and two face shields,” Goetz said. “Our community has always come through for us when we are in need.”
The drive came as Larimer’s official tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 79 on Saturday afternoon. The health department also confirmed the county’s first death, a Loveland long-term care facility resident in her 80s.
At the state level, the number of COVID-19 cases raced past the 2,000 mark. On Saturday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported the state had 2,061 confirmed cases. Out of those, more than 200 were hospitalized.
While Colorado hasn’t seen as dramatic a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations as states like New York, Gov. Jared Polis has repeatedly expressed concern that it soon could.
In response, he enacted a statewide “stay at home” order on Thursday to help slow the virus’ spread and give hospitals more time to prepare for a surge of patients.
“It’s space. It’s equipment. It’s personnel,” Polis said. “We need time for all of those. That’s what this order buys us. It buys us the time that we need to save lives in our state and reduce the spread of the virus.”
Outside of the PPE drive, Larimer’s health department has also started identifying spaces to hold a possible surge of COVID-19 patients. Staff have been working for nearly two weeks on preparing a 160-bed surge site at The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland.
“We don’t yet know what that would look like, who would be there or what type of medical treatment would be done at the site,” said Michelle Bird, a county spokeswoman. “We still have many hoops to jump through until that site could become operational.”