By Leah Williams
Washington County emergency services recently received $1,000 in personal protection equipment, thanks to a grant from the Rotary Club International.
Joe Miller, director of disaster response for the Rotary District 6510, said Washington County is one of 28 counties in Southern Illinois that has been given the donations.
“We are handing out PPE to replace what has been used since the beginning of the pandemic,” Miller said.
Miller said when Rotary International requested worldwide applications for possible awards, the group decided to forge ahead even though they thought the possibilities were slim.
“We said, ‘Let’s write a grant’ even though Southern Illinois doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of getting something,” he said. “And we got $25,000.”
The donations in the 28 counties also serve as an opportunity for the Rotary Club to introduce its Rotary Disaster Response trailer, which can be used in cases of emergency. The organization has trained and certified individuals who can set up and run the centers wherever they are needed.
EMA Coordinator Matt Bierman said the county was very “appreciative” of the donation.
“PPE is hard to find,” Bierman said. “We have a stockpile but we are getting ready for the second wave. [The supplies] are starting to diminish, and some things are getting hard to find again.”
Bierman said as the positivity rate in the county continues to rise, other problems are also growing, including the continued cooperation from the public. He said many times when individuals are contacted by the health department regarding a positive test, they are not being truthful of who they have been around because they do not want anyone to be isolated.
“The biggest problem we have right now is that people are not listening. They are not caring,” Bierman said. “They are tired. They are worn out.”
Bierman said continued diligence is needed to keep from overwhelming the local healthcare system.
“We are on the verge of crashing that system,” he said. “We are very close. Our crews here are taking trips all the way out to Indiana now.”
Experts are also preparing for the possibility of more COVID spread in the coming months. Washington County has state-of-the-art equipment and cleaning supplies to help combat the virus, including the newest donations.
“We haven’t reached the tip of the iceberg,” Washington County Ambulance Administrator John Felchilia said. “Right now, ambulance calls take an extra 15 minutes because of the extra cleaning. Patients are getting sicker.
Miller said he is grateful to be able to help neighboring counties with the donations.
“It was offered in 150 countries, so for Southern Illinois to capture some of that money is just amazing,” he said.