New data shows Tennessee hospitals are dangerously low on PPE


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some startling new data from the White House reveals how dire the coronavirus response has gotten in Tennessee.

Dr. Alisa Haushalter sounded the alarm, stating Shelby County has an average of nearly 500 new cases a day, with 56 percent of black COVID-19 patients dying and 26 percent of white patients dying.

“This is really the biggest peak we’ve experienced with the pandemic,” Haushalter said.

That also meant Shelby County led the state with the highest number of new cases over the last three weeks, according to the latest report from the White House coronavirus task force.

“It’s critical we take every step we can,” Haushalter said.

In addition, the report showed new hospital admissions are higher than they were in early August when they last peaked. What’s more, charts show some hospitals don’t have enough protective gear to last more than three days, with gloves being the most dire; around half reported they’d run out in two weeks.

Karli Caruso handles PPE ordering for Baptist hospitals. She says it’s a struggle to keep up.

“We don’t get it like it arrives tomorrow. That’s the way things used to be,” Caruso said. “It’s definitely a volatile market for all PPE. We’ve gotta be well ahead of the ordering curve knowing the most cost-effective way is to ship it on a boat from China.”

But even that has potential delays. She says right now, her order of 6 million gloves is sitting at customs in California, waiting for inspection to ensure they’re not counterfeit.

Caruso says Baptist has enough PPE for the next 60 days, but Tennessee’s smaller hospitals don’t have the same resources.

“One of the biggest advantages of a large health system is buying power; being able to purchase large volumes at a time,” Caruso said.

That said, she goes back to the uncertainty and struggle. She says the best way people can help them is to wear a mask and keep the disease from spreading.

WREG also checked with Regional One. A representative said their PPE supplies are also healthy, though they didn’t provide exact numbers.

Methodist released the following statement about their supply:

Through extensive planning and proactive measures Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has adequate supplies of PPE. As this virus continues to rage through our neighborhoods, we carefully monitor hospitalizations and case rates in our community. This ensures we’re doing everything possible to have the PPE needed to keep our employees, patients and communities safe.

It is critically important that community members partner with our healthcare workers so we can stop the spread of this insidious virus. People need to consistently wear a mask, frequently wash their hands, avoid crowds, and stay home when they feel sick.

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