Did you know there are more than 1,400 long term care facilities in King County? These include skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes), adult family homes, and assisted living and supported living facilities that provide care for older adults and people with disabilities who need help with activities of daily living.
“People who live in long term care facilities are at high risk for COVID-19. Many are over age 60 or have underlying health conditions. They are often sharing a bedroom or bathroom and it is challenging to follow social distancing protocols,” said Ingrid Ulrey, COVID-19- Chief, LTCF Response, and Policy Director, Public Health – Seattle & King County.
A skilled nursing facility in Kirkland was “ground zero” for the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak. Along with hospitals, fire departments and other first responders, long term care facilities were hit hard when COVID-19 began in our region. Due to the massive demand and lack of supply, they were unable to get needed personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and gowns, and other supplies like disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer.
King County activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on Feb. 28 and sprang into action. One of its key roles in the pandemic is to support Public Health – Seattle & King County by coordinating resource management. The EOC is taking aim at supply scarcity on behalf of jurisdictions and agencies around the region. The EOC compiles requests, submits orders to the state, and receives and re-distributes critical supplies. The team also maximizes the county’s buying power to fill in the gaps.
“We’re buying hundreds of thousands of masks, gloves, gowns, face shields, goggles, and other eye protection. We’re getting hundreds of gallons of hand sanitizer,” said Derrick Hiebert, Emergency Management Program Coordinator at King County Office of Emergency Management.
A team of employees from Emergency Management, Public Health, and other county departments, as well as volunteers from Team Rubicon, an international disaster response nonprofit, became a supply-ordering machine. The Facilities Management Division of the Department of Executive Services also plays an important role in the receiving and temporary storage of goods until they can be shipped out.
“The goal is to be able to meet everyone’s needs,” said Sophia Lopez, Emergency Management Program Manager at King County Office of Emergency Management (OEM).
Initially supplies had to be prioritized due to limited quantities. The state identified a hierarchy of “tiers” based on those treating or transporting COVID-19 positive patients, as well as the type of organization.
With state direction, the team at the EOC first focused on meeting needs by “Tier 1” organizations, such as long-term care facilities, emergency medical services (EMS) and hospitals. Once those needs were met, which happened just recently, the team was able to move to Tier 2, which includes group settings such as isolation facilities, homeless shelters, and behavioral health residential facilities. The goal is to soon be able to meet the needs in Tier 3 which includes group living facilities without known COVID patients, home hospice, home care without known COVID patients, opioid treatment programs, funeral homes, childcare centers and quarantine facilities.
“We’re also moving toward setting folks up to order certain items for themselves as supply opens back up,” Lopez added.
“I’m very proud of the work we’re doing in the EOC, especially the Logistics Section,” said Brendan McCluskey, OEM director. “We’re making a difference and helping save lives.”
Learn more in this short video.