As the COVID-19 pandemic grows so has the need for personal protective equipment and the government has been unable to answer the calls for help.
Private citizens like former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski and an army of volunteers are stepping up to fill the gap and delivering hundreds of thousands of surgical masks to medical professionals, first responders, and even 20 state agencies.
“There’s more demand than supply and you’ve got to be nimble. When you go to one of these places and they’ve got the masks you’ve got to pay cash you’ve got to inspect them and you’ve got to leave with them. If you wait 12 hours they’re going to be gone,” Stefanowski said Thursday following a delivery to the Bridgeport Police Department.
“But you’ve got to be aggressive. You can’t be signing a purchase order. You can’t be asking for payment terms. You’ve got to get in your truck. You’ve got to get down there and leave with them.”
That’s something the state has been unable to do.
“Look, it was the wild west out there and in many cases if we wanted to get the masks we needed we had to be a little more aggressive in terms of providing some of the shipping up front, providing some of the funding up front, only if we could vet that in the most serious way,” Gov. Ned Lamont said earlier this week.
Lamont signed an executive order changing state contracting laws to allow the state to purchase from Chinese suppliers.
“In order to get the PPE out to the frontlines we are being more aggressive and we are not working under the usual set of rules,” Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer in charge of purchasing for the state, said.
“We've got $50 million worth of PPE on orders right now that has not been delivered, which is the vast majority of what we’ve ordered,” Geballe said Wednesday. “We’ve got some orders coming in, they’re often partial shipments, but we’ve been very aggressive given how disrupted the global supply chain for PPE is right now.”
Meanwhile, the state is also looking to local manufacturers who have changed their process to manufacture PPE or hand sanitizer.
Geballe expects FEMA to deliver a Battelle sanitizing system this weekend that will allow hospitals to clean 80,000 N95 masks per day. The masks can then be used up to 20 times and will help extend the life of the equipment already in the state.