‘We’re woefully short’: Virginia to buy $27 million in personal protective equipment

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RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV/WWBT) — Virginia is digging its way out of a shortage of personal protective equipment amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Ralph Northam demonstrated how to use a mask on April 6 with his own, which was among many made by the Virginia Department of Corrections

Monday afternoon, Governor Ralph Northam and the state's COVID-19 response team announced the state is buying $27 million in personal protective equipment.

“We’re woefully short. Numerous requests have been made of our strategic national stockpile and we’ve received a mere fraction of what was requested. So like other states, we have had to go to the market to find suppliers,” said Brian Moran, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety.

In response, the state has turned to Northfield, a Virginia-based company, that will source more PPE for the state with that $27 million contract.

The N-95 masks, gowns and gloves will be distributed by SD's Trucking to health care providers around the commonwealth. The shipment is expected to arrive from Asia in one week.

"We have identified what we believe to be a very reliable supply chain and so a substantial purchase has been made," said Moran.

Northam said the state health department has also shipped out a million masks that had been held during the H1N1 outbreak and shipped out a third round of supplies from what the National Stockpile did provide for Virginia medical facilities.

The governor is also, as he did last week, encouraging people to use cloth face masks if they are out in public.

"It is comfortable. When applying it, you just want to put it over your face, said Northam, as he demonstrated with his own mask, which was made by the Virginia Department of Corrections.

“You don’t need a medical-grade mask to do this. In fact, you can make your own. The internet has many patterns and instructions for how to do so, even if you can’t sew,” said Northam.

The governor specifically mentioned that securing a bandanna with a rubber band is an easy option.

He also added, though, that people should not assume that wearing a face covering means that they can do anything, and they should remember that social distancing remains critical.

When asked why none of the state cabinet officials present at the briefing, including himself, were wearing face masks, Northam said they were following guidance by not wearing masks inside the building, but are wearing them when outside in the public.

Virginia's state lab has also been able to genetically map the virus. What they can say is coronavirus was introduced to the state in multiple communities instead of spreading from a single source. This will help health experts track how the virus may mutate in the future too.

There’s also a debate right now about when Virginia will see its COVID-19 peak. The state’s projection is in May, based on a number of varying studies and projections. One new model, by the University of Washington, projects a peak in late April. But models vary day by day and, in a lot of ways, are like weather forecasts in that they're more accurate the closer you get to the dates being looked at.

The governor says they will have a better projection based on new data by the end of the week, working with partners at UVA Health.