Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration has ordered millions of supplies to help with reported shortages of personal protective equipment to help with the coronavirus pandemic, but when those supplies will be in the hands of medical professionals, he doesn’t know.
"That's the million dollar question," Desantis said at a news conference Monday in response to a question about how long it takes orders from the national stockpile to get in the hospital rooms of Florida.
Medical personal protective equipment like gloves, masks, and gowns protect doctors and nurses when they care for patients with COVID-19, the disease contracted from the new coronavirus.
NBC 6 surveyed around 100 hospital professionals last week through Survey Monkey and many expressed concerns about the shortage, with two-thirds saying they had concerns they would get infected themselves.
“I think the blanket term that I’ve used is scary. The other terms I’ve heard used is traumatic. It's uncertain,” said Kate Franklin, an ICU nurse in Broward County.
Franklin posted earlier this week on her Instagram account about the fear in hospitals right now and how people can help by social distancing, staying away from each other, bringing down the spread of the virus, and lifting the burden off hospitals.
The shortage of personal protective equipment is a key reason for the fear. She said medical staff are bracing for a long, hard spring, and expect the worst to come in April or May.
“It impacts our safety, our health. I mean, we are the ones taking care of these patients. If we are not correctly protected, you know, you’re going to lose us. Who’s going to take care of these people?" said Franklin.
According to Florida's Department of Emergency Management, officials have ordered 250,000 coveralls, 500,000 gowns, 500,000 gloves, 150,000 full kits of protection, and 2 million of the all-important N95 masks.
At a Monday press conference outside Hard Rock Stadium, DeSantis said state officials do not always know where the supplies are after Florida orders them, with the tracking system nearly non-existent. All the states are competing for the same national stockpile and private markets.
The problem is so bad, DeSantis told NBC 6 they are looking to follow the FDA in finding a way to deep clean protective gear to re-use the gear they already have.
“We’re getting some in but then they’ll say 'you’re going to get another 500,000 next week' and it’s alright, here’s 25,000. Its cutthroat just by nature,” said DeSantis. “We just had a baby and I wasn’t in the delivery room because we didn't want to burn PPE [personal protective equipment]. My wife and I said 'look, let that be for medical professionals.'"
Over the weekend, President Trump said at a White House press conference that Florida has been approved everything state officials ordered. When they will arrive? They don’t know.