BARRINGTON, Ill. — As health care workers face more and more cases of COVID-19 every day, there is an urgent need for personal protective equipment (often called “PPE” for short), including gowns, gloves and masks used to protect them from infected patients.
As supplies run out, one area doctor is stepping up and asking the community to donate masks to help guard against the spread of the virus.
“Doctors are being asked to wear just one mask over the course of a day,” cardiologist Dr. Joey Sager said.
Sager explained that could be a problem because if they see even just one patient with COVID-19, the mask they are wearing is then potentially infected.
“You don’t want to wear it again, so the conservation efforts are causing problems at the front lines and putting health care workers at risk,” Sager said.
As health care workers confront the novel coronavirus, supplies like masks are dwindling. So at least for today, part of the nation’s health care supply chain runs from basements and garages, to back seats, to bins set up in a Barrington forest preserve.
From there, Sager said he and his wife will drop them off at hospitals and local firehouses.
“We knew there were people out there with N95 masks that weren’t being used, and we knew there were people who needed them that didn’t have them, so we figured we’d try to figure out a way to connect them and set up a donation spot,” Sager said.
Designed to block smaller particles, the “N-95” masks are thicker and fit more tightly around the face than a surgical mask.
General contractor Brian Miller uses the N-95 masks to protect his crew from dust and debris. But in this time of crisis, he says they can go towards helping those on the front lines. He dropped off about 300 masks, knowing his donation could potentially help hundreds.
“It’s not about me dropping these off, it’s about the doctors and health care people who are out there and putting their lives at risk by getting in front of people who are sick and I give ‘em all the credit in the world,” Miller said.
Others came with only one box, or one mask. Tony Milano of Barrington Hills said he found a few on his work bench.
“They were in my paint supply and I’ve had ‘em for a couple of years,” Milano said. “They need something more than we do, they were going to sit there if I don’t bring ‘em and drop them here.”
Sager said doctors and nurses need them most because they are in direct contact with the patients, but he says it’s important not to overlook the first responders, who can be literally face-to-face with patients.
“People don’t always think about the firefighters, but when you call 911, they’re the ones who are picking up the coronavirus patients,” he said. “So they’re really at risk.”
To guard against the spread, he said the rest of us need to follow doctors orders.
“It’s important that we all just stay home, follow the advice of our leaders and stay faithful and hopeful that we’re all going to get through this together,” Sager said.
So far, Sager has collected about 400 masks to be distributed to nearby firehouses and hospitals based on their need.
Another effort organized by southwest suburban activist Komal Gujarathi, MPH, collected 130 N95 respirators from local donations, according to a statement.