Erie County resumes COVID-19 testing of stockpiled samples, buys $1.1M in masks

Mar 24, 2020

The worldwide supply chain behind health care is starting to ramp up and produce more of the panoply of chemicals and supplies needed for the war against COVID-19. This comes as the number of coronavirus cases hits 96 in Erie County.

It's not just finding those who are infected with the novel coronavirus, it's also caring and protecting the first responder and healthcare personnel who are caring for the ill. Supply chains have been broken by China and Italy's needs in their own countries for the supplies.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the county is spending a large chunk of cash to get more special face masks for healthcare workers.

"To ensure that we have an appropriate amount of masks, earlier today, I authorized the purchase of 400,000 NIOSHA, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Hazard Agency, which is part of the CDC, approved N95 masks from an international manufacturer for a purchase price of $1.1 million," he said.

The county executive said it is from the $5 million dollars by the Erie County Legislature last week for fighting the virus. Poloncarz said the masks will arrive in lots of 50,000 and he hopes they will all be delivered by early April.

The county has problems doing what it considers enough tests because the testing materials are in short supply. Poloncarz told an online news conference a new supply of a key chemical in the testing process arrived early.

"We talked about getting reagents tomorrow. We do have some good news. We don't know exactly how much, because we just got this information before we came online. But we just found out more reagents were received at our Public Health lab 20 minutes before we got on TV. So the reagents that we were told were going to come tomorrow have come or some have come earlier than we thought," Poloncarz said.

The reagent will allow immediate testing of samples, which have been stockpiled in the county Public Health Laboratory.