Front line workers would have equipment shortage if surge now in COVID-19 cases: Roumeliotis

Local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis speaks during a news conference at the health unit office in Cornwall, Ont. on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Roumeliotis says there would not be enough protective equipment for front line workers dealing with COVID-19 if there were a sudden surge in cases locally today. So far no one has tested positive in the area for novel coronavirus. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The region’s top doctor says the federal government’s $1 billion novel coronavirus response package will “help a lot,” especially with equipment for first responders and medical professionals locally.

During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis says, at this point, there “may not be enough” personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line workers, such as doctors, paramedics and police officers, if there’s a surge in COVID-19 cases locally.

That’s partly due to people in “panic mode,” buying up N95 respirator masks and either shipping them to China or hoarding them and “causing these shortages.”

As of today, nobody in SD&G and Prescott-Russell has tested positive for the virus. Ottawa recorded its first positive case today – a man in his 40s who recently returned from Austria.

Roumeliotis was asked by Cornwall Newswatch for his thoughts on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement of $1 billion for a comprehensive coronavirus response package that includes equipment and research for a vaccine. Of that $1 billion, $500 million will be for provincial health care system needs.

“We want to make sure we have enough PPE so the $1 billion to bump up production will help a lot because do we have a shortage of personal protective equipment. We need swabs, we need all these things to protect our health care workers,” Roumeliotis said.

“There is a shortage of PPE. We have enough supply now but…if we don’t get any more, there will be a shortage. We want to make sure, when we have a surge in our interventions, that we have enough,” he said.

He says a shortage would also depend on the level of the surge.

Roumeliotis added that the research will “undoubtedly” help in the long term but he doesn’t believe a vaccine for COVID-19 will be available for another year.

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