IOWA CITY — It was like Christmas morning for Johnson County emergency managers this weekend as they received shipments of more than 14,000 masks and supplies to protect health care workers from the spread of COVID-19.
One of those shipments Saturday came with Andy Winborn, a Sharon Center independent truck driver who, on one of his regular runs to Colorado, spotted a billboard near Denver advertising masks for sale.
“I did ask if they were stolen or not,” Winborn said, only half joking.
But learning the masks had been legally purchased by an import company, Winborn put the company in touch with Dave Wilson, director of the Johnson County Emergency Management Agency. Wilson promptly bought 2,000 KN95 masks — all the company had — and 10,000 procedural masks.
KN95 masks have similar specifications to N95 masks, which are in high demand for health care workers.
Winborn, making the drive back to Iowa, loaded the masks on his truck and delivered them to Iowa City. The shipment was divided between the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and Mercy Iowa City, said Tom Trump, logistics section chief for the emergency management agency.
“My contact at the university knows this is coming and also supplies from the state,” Trump said. “Obviously, they are happy to get the supplies.”
Eastern Iowa hospitals have been worried about dwindling supplies of masks, gowns, gloves and face shields to protect their staff while screening visitors and treating patients with COVID-19.
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Mercy Iowa City spokeswoman Margaret Reese said Friday protective equipment was in “extremely short supply” and that some shipments have been incomplete or delayed.
Johnson County officials also accepted a delivery Saturday of 480 disposable face shields, 900 pairs of gloves, 180 gowns and 2,000 procedural masks delivered by the Iowa National Guard. This was an order placed by the county through the state, which is tapping into national stockpiles and trying to get the gear to the counties most in need. Johnson County had Iowa’s first confirmed cases of COVID-19 and continues to have the largest number of any county in Iowa.
The county purchased the equipment from the Colorado company, but there are partial reimbursements by the state and federal governments, Trump said.
Winborn, who made this trip to Colorado with his wife, Pat, who works with the Mid-Prairie Homeschool Assistance Program, said he immediately thought of needs at home when he saw the billboard. After working with rural electric cooperatives in Southeast Iowa, Winborn said he is always looking for solutions.
“That’s been my whole life, solving problems,” he said. “It was at least worth a call.”
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