CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The sight of paramedics, EMTs and nurses wrapped in personal protective equipment from head to toe has become all too familiar as professionals respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
That gear is critical in protecting providers as they care for the thousands who have died from the coronavirus. The numbers in America are still being tabulated, but in Spain, some 12,000 medical professionals have tested positive for the disease, and in Italy, more than 60 doctors have died.
Now, health officials are tracking a new trend, which shows are more patients are dying at home from the disease.
Home healthcare professionals say the new front line has left home health care workers with little or no protection to care for patients who may have the highly contagious disease.
In Chesapeake, Judith Turner owns a home healthcare business named Immanuel Care.
The conference room of her Greenbrier office has been converted into a sewing room for the production of hand-made masks. Turner says the coverage is so inadequate, workers often arrive at patients’ homes with only rubber gloves to offer protection.
“People are forgetting about the home healthcare workers; they are going into homes, and they are not protected,” said Turner.
Turner turned to Virginia Beach philanthropist Shevette Jones for help.
Jones and her husband Kevin, have made and shipped masks all over the country. It all started with a social media post.
“To date I have sent out 150 [masks]. I have sent them to Toronto, Florida, Georgia, Baltimore, Maryland — just all over the country. It just seems there’s a lot of need,” Jones said.
She also discovered a need to ease what is called “ear fatigue.” That occurs when a mask is worn for several hours.
“There’s a button I attach to a headband, you put your earpiece on, and you attach it to the button on the other side, ” said Jones.
Turner is grateful for the homegrown support offered by Jones, who is a fellow member of the nonprofit organization Chesapeake and Virginia Beach Links Inc.
However, she is calling on politicians from Hampton Roads to Washington D.C. to help provide PPE for home health care workers.