A veteran Missouri lawmaker who has tested positive for the coronavirus is worried that hospitals could run out of vital supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE).
State Rep. Joe Runions, D-Grandview, is one of Missouri’s at least 90 confirmed COVID-19 cases. We’ll get an updated number of confirmed cases from the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) tonight.
Runions has asked that a photo of him at Kansas City’s St. Joseph’s Hospital be shared with Capitol reporters. The photo was taken on March 19. While Runions remains hospitalized, he’s no longer on the ventilator and is breathing normally.
The 79-year-old Runions spoke to Missouri Governor Mike Parson (R) on the phone today, from the hospital. Runions says he spoke with the governor about his experiences and observations as a COVID-19 patient.
“I also urged him to do all in his power to send the necessary supplies directly to our hospitals as quickly as possible. I believe the governor understands the challenges our hospitals are facing and will take the necessary actions,” Runions says, in a news release.
Runions also sent a letter to Governor Parson, after their phone conversation. In the letter, Representative Runions urges the governor to do everything in his power to prevent Missouri hospitals from becoming overwhelmed during the pandemic.
Runions says his doctors at St. Joseph Hospital asked him to seek the governor’s assistance on PPE, because they’re worried they will run out of vital supplies.
“Since I am in isolation, every time a doctor or nurse comes in to check on me, they must put on all manner of gear to protect themselves,” Runions writes. “However, stocks of that equipment are rapidly running low, and doctors are deeply concerned about whether those stocks will be replenished fast enough to keep us with demand. Our hospitals need these supplies.”
There are some supplies coming in, and more are expected.
During Saturday’s press conference at the State Capitol in Jefferson City, Governor Parson and state Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Sandy Karsten announced that personal protective equipment orders have been delivered to 101 hospitals and to 22 EMS providers from the National Strategic Stockpile.
And during a Wednesday Capitol news briefing, Director Karsten announced that DPS and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) were working to get hundreds of thousands of pieces of PPE to local law enforcement officers and other first responders. She emphasizes the importance of equipment like masks and gowns.
“We expect the first orders of that to arrive March 24, and we’re already making plans to distribute those pieces to our partners,” Karsten said on Wednesday.
But Representative Runions worries about demand.
“I have witnessed first-hand how much of these supplies are being used up treating COVID-19, and I am just one patient. I’d say they are using 20 sets of supplies on me every day. The process of getting these supplies directly to hospitals must be greatly speeded up,” Runions writes.
Runions also says his doctors tell him are still aren’t enough testing kits, and is asking the governor to do anything he can to expedite the availability of the kits.
Governor Parson has said the state is working with the University of Missouri to expand COVID-19 testing, which should increase testing capabilities by thousands across the state.
The governor also notes the Mercy Hospital recently set up a drive-through testing site in Chestefield, and notes Quest Diagnostic and LabCorp are now testing. Governor Parson also notes that Lee’s Summit private lab Viracor will have the ability to do more than 1,000 tests each day.
As for Runions, he says he’s getting better but that it will be a long recovery. His focus now is on helping Missouri hospitals and medical staff.
Missouri House leaders in both parties have requested that all House employees stay out of the Missouri Capitol for at least the next ten days.
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