Coronavirus response adds strain to Summit County resources, but officials say they have the supplies they need for now |

Coronavirus response adds strain to Summit County resources, but officials say they have the supplies they need for now

Chris Cuculis of Summit Fire & EMS demonstrates how to disinfect COVID-19 from the interior of a fire engine March 13.
Liz Copan /

DILLON — Summit County officials are going to new lengths to make sure that essential personnel in the community have all of the supplies and equipment they need to continue serving the public.

But the strain on local resources has become apparent.

“It’s been wild,” said Brian Bovaird, Summit County’s emergency management director. “If we had an emergency incident of this magnitude in any other imaginable time, I’d be bringing in resources from around the country to give us support. But with this, everybody around the world needs those same resources. It is unprecedented in terms of the level of complexity.”

Still, the county has been able to keep up with the rapidly growing demand for supplies so far. Bovaird said the county’s public health department keeps a robust stockpile of supplies for potential surges like the COVID-19 response.

As orders for more supplies continue to go out to the state’s emergency operations center, other state and federal efforts have helped. Last week, the county received a shipment of supplies from the state’s emergency medical caches, including essentials like gowns, glasses, gloves and N95 masks — perhaps the most precious piece of equipment for first responders at the moment and essential to continuing some services.

“We’re monitoring our burn rates to make sure we’re projecting not only days but several weeks ahead of time due to anticipated delays in getting replenishments,” Summit Fire & EMS Chief Jeff Berino said about the masks. He continued to say that the district has been able to keep usage low so far with low call volumes and that he feels comfortable with at least a 10-14 day supply.

Though, Berino said that the masks are absolutely essential to operations. If supplies do run out, there is a Plan B in the form of battery-powered respirators, but the department doesn’t carry them on every engine. And he said responders won’t be sent out without proper equipment.

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“If it got to the worst-case scenario, I’d have our crews not respond to calls where they could become infected,” Berino said. “If the rescuers get sick, we can’t help. … It would be like running into a fire without the air tanks we need to breathe.”

With that in mind, the county also has tapped the regional strategic national stockpile. Bovaird said the county picked up its first allocation of “several hundred masks” from the stockpile Tuesday in Routt County, and he is expecting more deliveries staggered over the next four to six weeks. Though, the state and federal allocations likely won’t be enough if call loads increase.

“It doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination meet our medium- or long-term requirements,” Bovaird said. “In the emergency operations center, we’re looking to identify vendors in any number of ways that can also provide us with that equipment. … It really is a matter of support from the state and federal level, but we’re also opening up the checkbooks and purchasing it wherever we can find suppliers.”

Summit Fire & EMS officials walk staff through a refresher training on personal protective equipment March 9.
Courtesy Summit Fire & EMS

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