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PPE Is Still a Huge Issue. Here's How Each County is Handling It

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A nurse holds up a sign to protest the lack of personal protective gear available at UCI Medical Center amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 3, 2020, in Orange, California. Hospitals nationwide are facing shortages of PPE due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Alameda County has aggressively stockpiled protective gear to support all types of health care facilities, but no two counties have handled the challenge of obtaining PPE the same way.

Santa Clara County has distributed around 4 million pieces of equipment so far, according to Dr. Jennifer Tong, who directs the health care surge branch for the county’s Emergency Operations Center.

Tong said the county has focused on gathering data, so that it knows how busy facilities are, and which facilities are “using PPE in the way that it’s designed to be used.”

In San Mateo County, hospitals may choose to inform officials of the status of their PPE supplies or not. “We don’t know where all individual hospitals are in their PPE supplies because they don’t report that to the county Emergency Operations Center,” the county said in a statement.

In Contra Costa, Solano and Marin, county officials say all hospitals have stated they have enough PPE for a month.


In San Francisco, the city’s health department developed its own stockpile of PPE and acted as a provider to some hospitals and health clinics treating COVID-19 patients, according to Tosan Boyo, San Francisco General Hospital’s chief operating officer who is the city’s lead for COVID-19 operations.

As of the first week in June, Boyo said the city’s stockpile consists of at least 30 days of PPE on hand for 85% of the key protective equipment categories, with agreements in place he estimates will sustain San Francisco for six months at its current usage rate.

Not every hospital in San Francisco operates under this umbrella. UCSF’s protective equipment arrives “almost exclusively from our own supply chain,” said Josh Adler, who leads the elite medical university’s coronavirus operations. “There really was not a county level component to it for us.”

Besides donations, the hospital has not received a single shipment of N95 masks throughout this pandemic. “We have not been able to get any from our existing suppliers,” he said.

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