Arizona Working to Bring in Medical Supplies As Health Workers Grow Worried

By Jessica Swarner

March 24, 2020

Arizona officials are working to keep up with the demand for medical supplies as they see increasing numbers of people for coronavirus. 

Healthcare workers in Arizona are calling out for help as access to medical supplies becomes limited while trying to test and treat patients for COVID-19. 

According to ABC15, at least several employees at Banner Health have been told to conserve equipment like masks and gowns. 

The Arizona-based healthcare provider ramped up its testing on Monday with the opening of three appointment-only drive-thru test sites in the Phoenix area and one in Tucson. 

A guide written by Banner directed employees to wear the same gown when working with different patients as long as it was not “visibly soiled or contaminated.” Workers were also told to reuse face shields and respirator masks. 

While employees expressed concern for their and others’ safety due to these practices, a Banner spokeswoman told ABC15 they are following “evidence-based guidelines” and are avoiding unnecessary use of supplies. 

More Supplies Coming In 

The city of Phoenix and Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, worked over the weekend to keep up with the demand for more testing by holding a medical supply drive. 

People can continue to donate equipment at the Phoenix Convention Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day until March 28. 

A list of needed supplies is available here

State officials are also working to bring in more supplies. On Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey announced a public-private partnership that will get the state up to 1 million respirator masks and other equipment. The state is also receiving help from the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile, which sent Arizona more than 440,000 items Saturday. The shipment included 244,000 surgical masks, more than 60,000 respirator masks, and more than 26,000 face shields. 

According to the governor’s office, the shipment was about a quarter of Arizona’s share in the national reserve and will be distributed among the state’s 15 counties. The state health department has requested a second shipment that is expected to come in soon. 

Still Not Enough 

But even with the promise of more supplies, many in the state are still worried. 

Officials in Coconino County, which has seen 17 of the state’s 234 total cases, said Sunday they need help from the state and federal government this week or they may have to stop testing for coronavirus. 

Officials added they are in need of financial aid, as well as test kits, masks, and more. 

“Coconino County’s COVID-19 response is a leader in the state,” Chairwoman Lena Fowler said in a press release. “However, if we don’t get the financial aid and supplies soon, we won’t be able to continue services to help prevent the spread of this virus. We call on our state and federal partners to make test kits and other supplies available immediately.” 

On Sunday, the county closed one of its drive-thru testing sites due to a lack of supplies. 

Test Kits Also Scarce

Test kits have been even more difficult to come by than medical supplies. 

Due to the lack of their availability, federal and state officials have kept the requirements on who may be tested limited. Only people who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seriously ill may be tested, or people who are showing symptoms and have recently traveled to a place where there is an outbreak. 

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story included a report from Tucson police that said a man disguised as a delivery driver stole 29 test kits from a community health center on Saturday. Police said Tuesday they determined the man was an actual delivery driver who accidentally took the kits instead of the packages he was supposed to pick up. The test kits have been returned, and the man is not suspected of wrongdoing.

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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