Health care workers are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, and they're working to keep up with increasing demand for supplies.
"The chain of supplies and so on is watched very carefully, [there is a] razor sharp focus on all the protective equipment that we use," said Dr. Luther Rhodes, chief of Infection Control at Lehigh Valley Health Network. "I mean every hour, we are very aware of where we are."
Dr. Rhodes said, for now, the network's hospitals are in a good place, because early on in this pandemic they started rationing protective gear, like gloves, gowns, medical masks, and N-95 masks.
In some cases, officials are also asking nurses and doctors to sterilize and re-use their masks, something Dr. Rhodes said he's never seen done before.
"Someone having access to a mask that they can put their name on and reuse is pretty much a new concept," Dr. Rhodes said.
The limited number of N-95 masks, in particular, are only being used in extreme cases. They're only effective if fitted for each person, and can only be used for a short period of time.
"[They are] very uncomfortable," Dr. Rhodes said. "... if you wear them they should be generated by a risk that's well above the normal risk."
Dr. Rhodes said they're cutting out elective surgeries and procedures. Overnight stays in the hospital are also limited, to save space.
"If someone is in a hospital in this era, they are there for a very good reason," Dr. Rhodes said.
COVID-19 patients admitted to the hospital will generally be exhibiting severe symptoms, including shortness of breath and an extended fever. For now, Dr. Rhodes said, the patients who the network has identified as positive for the virus have not needed a hospital stay.
"Most COVID- patients are doing fine, they're improving and getting better," Dr. Rhodes said. "...because they're home, they're recovering and that's the safest place quite frankly for patients."
Dr. Rhodes said he has lived and worked through five pandemics. This one, he explained, is unique given the amount of social distancing and preventative measures being taken by both hospital and government officials. His message to others is not to panic, but simply, to be cautious.
"Do the distancing, but realize it does come to an end," Dr. Rhodes explained. "I mean the condition starts, occurs, and disappears, so COVID- isn't forever."
The Lehigh Valley Health Network is accepting donations of masks and other protective gear. According to Dr. Rhodes, in some cases, people can hand-make protective equipment to donate to the hospital.
St. Luke's University Health Network is also accepting mask/equipment donations, along with fabric donations, including cotton, denim, duck cloth, silk and elastics, for them to make protective equipment.