Deputy Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health Sarah Reisetter and Gov. Kim Reynolds give an update on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, IA Thursday, March 26, 2020 Thursday, March 26, 2020. (Photo Credit: Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the state epidemiologist and medical director with the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), issued a personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage order to the state’s healthcare providers.

Sarah Reisetter, deputy director for IDPH, announced the order during Gov. Kim Reynolds’ press conference on Friday morning at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa.

“I want to thank the many Iowans who have donated PPE and our incredible manufacturers who are ramping up production, as the global community uses more PPE than ever before to protect healthcare workers and patients. Unfortunately, we’re in a position where like many states and countries across the globe, we are preparing for a time when we might not have enough of these supplies,” she said.

Reisetter explained that IDPH issued guidance after Reynolds suspended all non-essential and elective surgical and dental procedures on April 2. The order, effective today, requires providers to work with IDPH to assess, monitor and extend the use of the state’s supply of PPE according to guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The order applies to health care providers, hospitals, health care facilities, clinics, local public health agencies, medical and response organizations, and any others that use PPE for the treatment of patients or residents of facilities. The order requires these entities to decrease demand for PPE by minimizing patient contacts when possible and maximizing the way barriers and ventilation systems are used,” she explained.

Reisetter said the order also reminds health care providers and facilities they must comply with the Governor’s ban on non-essential and elective surgical and dental procedures that utilize PPE.

“(The order) requires canceling all other elective and non-urgent procedures and appointments, reserving PPE for health care providers, and having patients cover their mouth and nose with a barrier other than a surgical face mask, and, finally, using telemedicine when possible,” she said.

Reisetter explained that the order also focuses on extending the use of PPE when health care providers are following the order, and demand still exceeds supply.

“The order directs them to use face masks that may be beyond their shelf life or expiration date. Not change face masks or respirators for each patient encounter. Use washable gowns. Use reusable eye protection, decrease the length of stay for COVID-19 patients if they’re medically stable,” she said.

“The third step in the order if PPE use continues to outpace supply is to implement crisis capacity standards, and this would include reusing PPE and provides guidance for removal and reuse using PPE past its shelf life. Prioritizing face masks are essential activities that may involve direct infectious contacts, and considering alternative approaches, such as, using homemade masks in combination with face shields,” Reisetter added.

She said that the order also includes immunity protection for providers implementing these strategies during this shortage if they are acting in good faith.

“We understand the issuance of this order may be unsettling, but due to the global shortage of PPE supply, we’ve determined that now is the time to take this action,” Reisetter explained.

Reynolds said they have had to look within the state as the national stockpile is depleted.

“We were receiving some orders, but as we continue to see those pushed back, you know, we’ve had to reach within the state to see what else we could do to help to provide our health care workers and those first responders that PPE that they need,” she said.

Reynolds provided an update on specific numbers for Region 1 (south-central Iowa including Des Moines), Region 5 (southeast Iowa including Iowa City, Davenport, and Bettendorf), and Region 6 (northeast Iowa including Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, and Waterloo).

Region 1, as of April 9, 2020, has 30 patients hospitalized with one additional patient admitted in the previous 24 hours. Eight patients are in ICU, and six are on a ventilator. The region has 1338 inpatient beds, 157 ICU beds, and 218 ventilators available.

Region 5, as of April 9, 2020, has 39 patients hospitalized with 12 additional patients admitted in the previous 24 hours. Fourteen patients are in ICU, and six are on a ventilator. The region has 675 inpatient beds, 79 ICU beds, and 156 ventilators available.

Region 6, as of April 9, 2020, has 49 patients hospitalized with three additional patients admitted in the previous 24 hours. Twenty-seven patients are in ICU, and 16 are on a ventilator. The region has 1170 inpatient beds, 78 ICU beds, and 127 ventilators available.

Listen to the press conference.

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