With a weekend surge of positive cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas, the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical teams in the state has risen too.
COVID-19 cases in Arkansas rose from 165 on Sunday to 174 on Monday. As of early Monday afternoon, there were 41,708 U.S. cases and 573 deaths. Globally, there were around 367,500 cases and more than 16,100 deaths.
University of Arkansas at Fort Smith administrators received a plea Sunday (March 22) from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, whose medical providers are nearing a critical shortage of these important means of protection and containment. UAFS heeded the call. A small team gathered at the UAFS campus Monday to collect, box, label, and load more than 100,000 pieces of PPE for colleagues actively fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because the UAFS colleges of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Health Sciences were already assessing supplies, it took little time to gather and box equipment. Dr. Linus Yu, associate dean of STEM, delivered supplies to UAMS in Little Rock Monday afternoon.
“UAMS is working triple-time right now to ensure the safety and good health of the people of Arkansas, and the least we can do is help our partners in doing that hard work by giving them this protective equipment so they can stay safe,” said UAFS Chancellor Dr. Terisa Riley. “We all benefit when they are healthy because they are making sure we can stay healthy.”
Staff collected 111,750 gloves, 1,980 masks, 150 fluid-resistant masks, 50 cone masks, 60 sterile surgical gowns, 21 non-sterile surgical gowns and 90 isolation gowns from the College of STEM, the College of Health Sciences and the College of Applied Science and Technology – all of which use PPE for training and laboratory safety. Of those, 70,000 gloves, 1,350 masks, 150 fluid-resistant masks, 50 cone masks, 40 sterile gowns, 21 non-sterile gowns and 50 isolation gowns were donated to UAMS.
Administration made the decision to keep some items in reserve for local health care systems, including Baptist Health-Fort Smith and Mercy Fort Smith.
“We made the calculated decision to leave some supplies behind in the likely event our local health care systems find themselves short of supplies,” said Dr. Ron Darbeau, dean of the College of STEM and interim dean of the College of Health Sciences at UAFS, who coordinated the effort.
The equipment is supplies students normally use in various labs on campus, said Rachel Rodemann Putman, UAFS associate director for strategic communications. Students in every level of nursing studies, licensed practical nursing students, dental hygiene students and surgical tech students use the equipment as do students taking chemistry, biology and anatomy labs.
“I’m so proud of the fact that our academic deans, and our health science, STEM, and applied science faculty see the big picture of helping our community and our entire state in times of need,” Riley continued. “When asked to pitch in, they did without hesitation.”
In addition to the supplies donated to UAMS, administrators kept some supplies in reserve to meet needs as they arise in the Fort Smith metro.