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County’s first responders have sufficient personal protective equipment for now


It was a close call. Indian River County Fire-Rescue was down to its last week of N95 masks, gowns, suits, goggles, face shields and other personal protective equipment (PPE) when a shipment arrived last Thursday.

But it was only a temporary fix, as it takes a lot of equipment to protect a force of nearly 250 firefighters, paramedics and EMTs, and to have enough to share with other agencies and healthcare professionals.

But every agency in Indian River County that needs the equipment has it right now, Chief Tad Stone said. 

“Statewide there is a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment, but we have sufficient stocks in house today to take us for about the next week and a half to two weeks,” Stone said last Friday. “We got an order yesterday and those are being distributed primarily through the adult living facilities and to the nursing homes throughout the county because they are at the critical shortage right now. We also sent some out to our first-responder agencies and so they have adequate supply.”

Stone said he is expecting a second shipment this week, “part of that will be coming from our national stockpiles.”

The Indian River Shores Public Safety Department, with a smaller staff of 22 full-time sworn officers who are triple-trained as police, firefighters and paramedics, plus several part-time police officers, is in slightly better shape – for now – when it comes to protective equipment.

Capt. Mark Shaw said on Friday, “Today we received 60 N95 masks and had already received 40 complete PPE kits from our distributor. We still have more on order but do not have a ship date yet. We are good for a while so long as we don’t have a huge jump in call volume.”

Shaw said the Shores’ supply should last “at least three weeks.” That was nearly a week ago, so the Shores is effectively down to a two-week supply until the next shipment is received.

Florida’s chief emergency manager Jared Moskowitz and Gov. Ron DeSantis have both pointed out how aggressive Florida officials have had to be to get needed supplies into the state, including PPE, test kits, swabs and materials to set up field hospitals.

“We were one of the first states to order all this stuff,” DeSantis said. “But it’s really cutthroat.”

Moskowitz said Florida is competing with “everybody but Antarctica.”

On March 20, DeSantis issued an executive order suspending elective medical, dental and surgical procedures in Florida in an effort to reserve stocks of PPE for emergency departments and critical care personnel in the event that hospitals get an influx of patients presenting with COVID-19 symptoms.