W.Va. National Guard Delivers Medical Supplies to Local Health Departments

Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble helps to unload medical supplies delivered Tuesday night by the West Virginia National Guard to the City-County Building in Wheeling.

WHEELING — The West Virginia National Guard is delivering much-needed medical supplies to county health departments across the state that will be dispersed today to hospitals and their staffs.

Boxes filled with N95 protective masks, surgical gowns, face shields and gloves arrived Tuesday evening at the health department offices in Ohio and Marshall counties to replenish local hospital supplies.

Wheeling-Ohio County Emergency Management Director Lou Vargo said the National Guard brought the supplies to the City-County Building in Wheeling and health department workers planned to deliver the boxes this morning to Wheeling Hospital.

Although no confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported in Ohio County as of late Tuesday, Vargo said there remains an urgent need for medical protective supplies because Wheeling Hospital is treating patients with the coronavirus from other counties.

“It’s very imperative,” he said. “Depending on how this pandemic goes … we just have to stay ahead of the curve and make sure all of the health care providers are properly equipped.”

Wheeling Hospital CEO Douglass Harrison said last week that the hospital was “running low on essential supplies” as medical providers across the country were quickly depleting protective gear to fight the coronavirus outbreak, causing a back order in shipments.

Hospital spokeswoman Thea Gompers said Tuesday it was “extremely important” for them to receive the shipment of supplies now as they prepare for the possibility of more patients in the coming weeks.

“We’re not close to depleting (the medical supplies), but we want to make sure we have enough to get through whatever surge may occur,” she said. “We are completely protected.”

Vargo noted that the gear is also needed for precautionary measures while testing patients at the mobile testing site location that opened March 18 at Wheeling Park.

“Other people are coming in for testing,” Vargo said. “We have to treat them as positives (with coronavirus) until we know.”

A similar shipment was sent to the Marshall County Health Department to be delivered today at WVU Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale. That county had a couple test positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, although neither has been hospitalized.

Additional equipment will also go to the county health department and other public health operations, Marshall County Emergency Management Director Tom Hart said.

“It’s extremely important,” Hart said. “Our health department, they’ve been on top of everything from the beginning and really trying to work the issues.”

Emergency management workers from Marshall and Wetzel counties are traveling to Charleston today to pick up more N95 protective masks for first responders in the Northern Panhandle, Hart said.

“This equipment going out to them, it’s vital at this point,” he said.

The medical supplies were released from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the federal national strategic stockpile.

They were originally sent to Charleston to allow for the West Virginia National Guard to sort the medical equipment and then disperse it across the state this week.

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard, said additional guardsmen are fanning out across the state to support local and county health officials fight against the coronavirus.

“They are once again leading the charge to respond to our state’s need while also finding innovative solutions to critical problems and paving a path for the future, if and when we face a similar emergency,” Hoyer said in a written statement.

“I cannot thank them and their families enough for the support they are providing during this unprecedented time in our state and nation’s history.”


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