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PPE

From left. Wading River Fire Dept. Chief Branden Heller, Suffolk Count Legislator Sarah Anker, Fire Commissioner Joesph Moren, Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, Fire Commissioner Kevin McQueeney, Covanta Huntington Facility Manager Ken Hinsch, Brookaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner, Fire Commissioner Jim Meier, Fire Commissioner Michael Harrigan, Fire District E.M.S. Supervisor Brian Danowski. Photo from Anker’s office

Local Electeds joined fire department members to celebrate a North Shore power plant for donating PPE during the height of the pandemic.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) recently joined Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, Brookhaven town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and local fire department members at the Wading River Fire Department to thank and honor Ken Hinsch and Convanta Energy of Huntington for their donation of personal protective equipment to the Wading River, Ridge and Rocky Point Fire Departments during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Covanta Energy of Huntington’s donation included over 15 cases of Tyvek suits and N95 masks that were distributed to Wading River, Ridge and Rocky Point Fire Departments. The donation was estimated to be between $5,000- $6,000 in supplies.

“This pandemic has brought many challenges to our community, including the availability of much needed PPE for our emergency responders,” Anker said. “I am so thankful to Covanta and their Facility Manager, Ken Hinsch, for donating PPE to our local fire departments, and to our fire department

volunteers who have continued to protect and provide emergency services to our community members throughout the pandemic.” 

Covanta is a waste management company that regularly uses PPE. In April, Wading River Fire Commissioner Kevin McQueeny reached out to Covanta’s Facility Manager, Ken Hinsch, when the department was nearly out of the life-saving equipment. Ken Hinsch coordinated with the Wading River, Ridge and Rocky Point Fire Departments, donating several cases of Tyvek suits and N95 masks. A member of the Ridge Fire Department drove to the Huntington location to receive the initial donation, while the remaining donation was given to the Wading River Fire Department. The Wading River Fire Department then distributed a portion of the donation to the Rocky Point Fire Department. 

“The Board of Fire Commissioners, the Chief’s office and the volunteers of the Wading River Fire Department would like to thank Covanta Energy of Huntington and their Facility Manager, Ken Hinsch, for the generous donation of much needed PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Wading River Fire Commissioner Kevin McQueeney.

Colby Rowe and Roseanna Ryan making a delivery of over 100 iPads for patient-family communication. Photo by Scott Lamarsh

While Stony Brook University Hospital staff were taking care of the sickest residents in the midst of the pandemic in Suffolk County, residents did what they could to return the favor.

Colby Rowe’s truck is filled with 3M N95 masks. Photo by Colby Rowe

In addition to cheering for health care workers, first responders and essential employees each night at 7 p.m., numerous residents and businesses made donations of everything from lifesaving N95 masks to food to comfort care.

After 10 weeks of accepting donations from March through early June, Stony Brook had collected nearly one million pieces of personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves and head and food coverings, 33,500 comfort care items such as snacks, hand lotion, puzzles and coloring books, 18,000 meal donations, 575 video messages of support and 435 iPads for telemedicine.

These donations bolstered the spirits of the staff and provided vital comfort during everything from the process of conducting COVID-19 tests in the South P Lot to the recharging breaks doctors, nurses and hospital staff took after caring for patients.

“The comfort piece was a bit more striking for the patients and the staff,” said Roseanna Ryan, director of Patient Advocacy & Language Assistance Services at SBU Hospital. “The need for the staff to have a respite area to recharge during this extremely challenging time was something that we might not have initially anticipated. The donations we were able to use went such a long way.”

Indeed, even some of the smaller items helped the masked men and women health care heroes throughout the hospital system.

During testing, some of the medical professionals worked 12-hour shifts, administering test after test for reeling residents. Items such as breath mints, ChapStick and even eye coverings that would help health care workers take a nap in their car before returning for the next shift proved incredibly helpful, said Colby Rowe, Trauma Center Education & Prehospital outreach coordinator. Rowe worked with the emergency management team at the university, primarily coordinating the donation center.

“I received lots of text messages from people on the receiving end saying, ‘Thank you so much.’ They felt appreciated by the community, Rowe said.

Rowe added that the hospital performed ably in ensuring that the staff had sufficient PPE equipment to help them with their dangerous but important work.

The university took a wide range of assistance. Some donations, like snack food, found a home in the break room. Others, however, wound up helping people in different locations.

Stony Brook received more than 400 Easter baskets. Rowe was on the phone with a civilian friend from the U.S. Department of Defense, who told him that Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn had to postpone an Easter event.

Rowe loaded up his truck and drove the Easter baskets to Brooklyn. That’s not where the community spirit stopped. On the way, several baskets blew out of his truck on Route 347.

Snacks from the hospital break room at SBUH. Photo from Stony Brook University.

“I had about four cars pull over to help me” retrieve the boxes, Rowe said. “That’s a sign of the times.”
None of the boxes, which were donated to the children of soldiers, sustained any damage.

Rowe also said the university worked to make sure support staff, including housekeeping and the people moving the carts to usher patients around the hospital, benefited from these gifts.

The most consistent donated items were the three-dimensional printed face shields and hand sanitizer, which faculty who stayed to help frontline workers made on campus. In total, the university received more than 14,000 face shields and 509 gallons of hand sanitizer.

Ryan and Rowe said the hospital was grateful and humbled by each donation they received.
Several groups offered consistent gifts. The Three Village Coronavirus Forum Facebook group, which Three Village resident Michael Ehrlich led, raised hundreds each week through membership donations. They shopped at Target and Walmart to buy comfort care items.

Frito-Lay donated a couple of truckloads of chips to stock the respite room, while the Three Village Dads Foundation raised money to feed frontline workers.

The donations helped fill in some gaps during the year as well. National Nurses Week and National EMS week both occurred in May. While the hospital typically honors these professionals with gifts to show their appreciation, the response to COVID-19 was the priority during those times. The donations, however, provided material for care packages.

The pandemic triggered needs the hospital never had before, Ryan said.

“We had to identify different ways to allow our patients to communicate with their loved ones, while there was no visitation or limited visitation,” Ryan said. The hospital redeployed nursing staff into family liaison roles to provide friends and family with updates.

Rowe delivers Easter baskets to the families of soldiers at Fort Hamilton. Photo by Colby Rowe.

For the patients, the hospital put together comfort bags, which included activities like word searches, crossword puzzles, stress balls, aroma therapy, eye masks, and dry erase boards to allow patients who were able to write to communicate with nurses outside a door, which helped preserve PPE.

At this point, the university has some supplies left over, which it will likely use during the current, planned reopening of the university side of Stony Brook.

In addition to receiving donations from the community, Stony Brook also benefited from donations from people in other countries, including China, Korea and Germany.

“People sent really moving and emotional notes,” Rowe said. “We saw a lot of good in people” during a difficult time.

Ryan was also grateful for all the support from the university.

“The planning and preparation from senior leadership put us in a position where we were able to be successful in getting to the other side of this,” Ryan said. “Leadership at the state level also helped tremendously with that.”

Karen Tsai, class of 2017, reviewing donations with another volunteer from DonatePPE.org. Photo from Stony Brook Medecine

Perhaps no figure is as indicative of the strain on the health care system as the number of residents battling the pandemic in the Intensive Care Unit. A month ago, that number was close to 550.

Kevin Tsai, class of 2019, carries donations of PPE.

Through Tuesday, the most recent period for which data is available, the number of people in the ICU dropped by 31 to 183.

“That’s the first time in a long time that [the number] is below 200,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

At the same time, the rolling three-day average of the number of new hospitalizations was below the threshold needed, 30, to reopen the economy for a second straight day through Tuesday.

“That’s very good news,” Bellone said. “We are meeting that for at least two days now. We are hopeful that the trend will continue.”

After an increase of 10 in the number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 on Monday, the number fell by the same amount on Tuesday, bringing total hospitalizations to 575.

The hospital capacity for beds overall and for ICU beds is tracking close to 70 percent, which is the target figure to reopen the economy.

As for testing, the number of positive tests increased by 239 over the last day, which is considerably lower than the average over the last few weeks. The number of people tested during that period was 3,229 for a positive testing rate of 7.4%.

COVID-19 continues to take the lives of Suffolk County residents. Over the last day, 17 people have died, driving the total number of coronavirus-related deaths to 1,697. To put that number in perspective, the number of deaths in the county is 60 people below the total enrollment at Ward Melville High School.

Bellone offered his thoughts and prayers to those who are grieving these losses.

As he has for several weeks amid discussions about reopening the economy, the county executive reiterated his desire to see the county reopen in such a way that it doesn’t need to shut down later in the summer or in the fall, amid a potential second wave of the virus.

Having a strong testing regime in place and an aggressive contact tracing plan is “going to allow you to identify quickly” any potential areas of transmission of the virus, Bellone said. These measures, which include 450 contact tracers, will put the county in a position to close a business or specific type of activity in as “targeted a way as possible,” he said. “That’s a much better scenario than seeing infections spike and not having a sense of where they are coming from.”

One of the lessons from other parts of the world that have reopened and then had to close businesses again has been that these measures will hopefully keep Suffolk County from sliding back after it is ready to open.

Separately, Bellone’s office delivered 45,000 personal protective equipment to nursing homes and adult care centers in the last day, bringing the total PPE to 4.7 million pieces since the crisis began.

SB Medical Graduates Pitch In PPE

Meanwhile, two Stony Brook Medical School graduates, siblings Karen Tsai, who graduated in 2017, and her younger brother Kevin, who graduated in 2019, created an organization called DonatePPE.org, which has contributed over 1.2 million pieces of personal protective equipment to areas including New York City, the Bay area, Southern California, New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago and Boston.

Karen helped launch DonatePPE and created a volunteer team, which included her brother. The team has 30 people which includes web developers and health care workers. Kevin helps run the website and is writing articles about donations and collaborations with PPE producers and sponsors. He also offers insights from his anesthesiology perspective.

The group also worked with illustrator Guy Gilchrist, who worked with Jim Henson on the Muppets television show, to post downloadable coloring pages, sketches and comic strips. DonatePPE launched on March 19. In the first two weeks, the site donated 100,000 articles of PPE, which included the coveted N95 masks, surgical masks, face shields, gowns, shoe coverings and goggles.

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Rohan Singh and his brother Rishabh holding the masks they have been making on a 3D printer. Photo from Singh

Young Belle Terre resident Rohan Singh, at home during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, told himself he needed to do something to help the surrounding community using GoFundMe and a 3D Printer.

Singh’s father, Ravi, is a doctor working in Patchogue, and so from both him and the news in general, he said he heard about the general lack of personal protective equipment from hospitals all around Long Island. He said, speaking with his dad, he learned of his father’s old colleague from college, who now works at Japan-based company Aizome Bedding. The business originally created pillows and beds, but has since transferred to making N95 masks. 

These masks, in today’s world costs $2.50 each. To get 1,000 of these would require $2,500. Taking to GoFundMe, Rohan made up the amount by donations in five days. He said he plans to distribute the masks to Mather Hospital and Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue, the medical center his father works closely with.

“After talking to my dad, I asked what I can do to help,” he said.

Looking to do more, Singh looked into 3D printing. The first time using the device, he said it was difficult at first, but now with six masks under his belt he is joining the legions of people looking to help hospital workers by producing his own PPE. Each takes about five hours to print, and so far he has produced six masks. 

“This isn’t the first time Rohan has tried to make  a difference. When he was in fifth grade, he won the Suffolk County Social service award for collecting and distributing left over pencils for an orphanage in India,” Singh’s mother Priyanka said. “He manned a Farmers Market stall in Port Jefferson selling Samosas to raise money for a prosthetic foot camp as a sophomore in high school. So during this pandemic it didn’t surprise us that he wanted to use his time in quarantine to try and help people in the front line.”

The Port Jeff high school student said he is also looking long term.

“I want to think of the bigger picture, think of something more like industrial alternative masks that don’t take up as much time to print,” he said.

Singh’s GoFundMe can be found here. More and more people are reaching out and doing their part to support hospitals in their time of need. Visit here to see how locals have been making handmade PPE for hospitals and keep up with TBR News Media to see how locals are giving back to healthcare workers.