State lawmaker calls for plan to get more masks, total equipment count

Posted at 9:47 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 22:47:49-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Nashville lawmaker is calling for government action to determine how much personal protective equipment (PPE) the state has.

State Representative Mike Stewart, a Nashville Democrat, held a press conference outside his home Monday morning while self-quarantining. Stewart called for Governor Bill Lee to take action on buying more protective masks and other protective gear used by healthcare workers and doctors who are treating patients who have COVID-19.

Stewart said he spoke with several healthcare workers who said the supplies are running low and they're not sure where more protective gear will come from.

Read More: Doctors worry about low supply of COVID-19 protective gear

"There are hospitals in this city where there are not enough masks for patients who have coronavirus symptoms. So, they're literally using homemade masks and other equipment. That is happening. That is unacceptable," said Stewart.

After contacting the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency over the weekend to try to figure out for himself how many masks were still in Nashville, Stewart said he never received a call back. He said he believes some protective gear could be bought internationally and shipped into Tennessee.

"We need to know specifically, what are the supplies today and what is the plan to make sure that every single healthcare provider, every single day is supplied from now until this crisis ends. If we keep our healthcare providers healthy. They will keep us healthy. It is absolutely essential that we do this," he said.

Stewart also said the state should find enough masks to also give patients protective gear as well.

Governor Lee addressed the issue during his press conference Monday, saying supplies have dwindled.

"There are some very promising developments that are happening in the coming days as well as over the last couple of weeks. There's a tremendous national movement toward the production of personal protective equipment for states and we will be beneficiaries of that. It's hopeful but we are not depending on others to find and source personal protective equipment for our state we're working really hard within our own departments to do that we have dedicated resources there," said Lee.

He then went own to show a creative approach to the problem in which several higher education schools are 3D printing face shields. He also pointed to Executive Order 18, which stops elective surgeries in hospitals and other facilities including dental offices. And asks practitioners to donate personal protective equipment to the nearest national guard armory.