Eric Martin of Boshart Trucking and Erik Anderson of Linn County Public Health made quick work Friday afternoon of unloading pallets full of personal protective equipment at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center.
The PPE — a donation from the nationwide nonprofit Healthcare Ready in partnership with the Business Roundtable and Project HOPE — will be added to Linn County Emergency Management’s stockpile. The donation included 4,480 N95 masks, 2,900 surgical masks and 12,060 surgical gowns and will help replenish inventory that has been strained by the twin challenges of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to the wildfires that ravaged parts of the county in September.
The partnership with Healthcare Ready was arranged through state Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis.
Boshart Davis, R-District 15, helped mitigate the effects of the wildfires in the Santiam Canyon in September, including volunteering at the county’s emergency evacuation shelter at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center for a week after the Labor Day fires began.
More than 700 people and 1,500 animals were fed, sheltered and received medical care and relocation assistance at the makeshift emergency center, supported by the Linn County Board of Commissioners.
“Oregon residents are facing unprecedented hardships and dealing with them all at the same time. From the COVID-19 pandemic to wildfires that devastated livelihoods and neighborhoods, our role is to focus on how we can bring relief and assistance to those we serve,” Boshart Davis said.
She added that Linn County has been on the “front lines of relief efforts,” and the PPE donation will improve access to supplies "that remain in high demand.”
Boshart Davis said she was contacted by Healthcare Ready.
“They wanted to know if I knew of an organization that would be able to take all of the supplies and distribute them throughout the canyon,” Boshart Davis said. “I told them I knew exactly who could do that and to make sure the equipment gets to the right people.”
Boshart Davis said the way Linn County came together — from government officials to private business owners and residents — to staff and provide needed supplies for the evacuation shelter was "heartwarming.”’
“I am really proud to live in Linn County, and I’m proud of the people who work for our county and who believe in caring for our neighbors,” Boshart Davis said.
Linn County Emergency Management is also coordinating with Marion County and the Santiam Hospital to ensure the donated supplies are distributed appropriately and in a timely manner.
Neva Anderson, Linn County’s emergency preparedness coordinator, said the “need to distribute PPE to those in our community who are serving on the front lines is critical.”
She added that the emergency equipment will “go directly to serve Linn County’s first responders, long- term care provider staff and health care workers, who are fighting COVID-19 on a daily basis.”
Maintaining adequate PPE stockpiles remains a problem in places.
In May, the federal government set a goal of increasing its emergency stockpile of N95 respirator masks to 300 million within 90 days but fell short of that goal, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. As of mid-November, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had only 142 million N95 masks, the Journal reported. The masks filter 95% of small airborne particles and are considered effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19.
Healthcare Ready was established in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the Association for Accessible Medicines and the American Red Cross.
“Healthcare Ready is working with public health and emergency management agencies across the country, as well as with federal agencies, to coordinate activities to support the COVID-19 pandemic response and disasters like these wildfires which have impacted the country,” Healthcare Ready Executive Director Nicolette Louissaint said.
Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.