Dr. Preyanshu Parekh speaks with an individual suffering from possible COVID-19 symptoms during a drive-thru screening Friday at an alternate site on the campus of SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville. Rock County health officials say there is a critical need for several types of personal protective equipment that doctors and nurses need.


Officials in Rock County don’t know how long local stockpiles of personal protective equipment will last in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Local health care workers and law enforcement officials have what they need for now, but Rock County’s emergency operation center recognizes the impact of nationwide supply shortages could hit home soon, said Tammy Kettleson, administrative assistant for Rock County’s emergency management bureau.

To combat shortages, Rock County is asking community members and business leaders to donate any protective masks, gloves, face shields, protective gowns or other equipment they have to the county’s stockpile.

Donations are preferred, but the county will consider buying equipment from businesses, Kettleson said.

Rock County will receive some items from the strategic national stockpile, which state officials began distributing this week.

Local officials do not know how much or what kind of equipment the county will receive from the stockpile, Kettleson said.

So far, health care workers and first responders are seeing equal need for equipment, she said.

County officials are not managing or keeping track of ventilators, which are needed to care for people hospitalized by COVID-19, Kettleson said.

The Rock County Public Health Department declined to share if any Rock County patients have been hospitalized because of COVID-19.

“Because COVID-19 affects individuals differently based on a variety of factors, the number of hospitalizations does not provide a representative picture of the local COVID-19 situation,” said public health officer Marie-Noel Sandoval in a news release.

Barb Bortner, vice president at Mercyhealth, said ventilators are needed only in “certain situations,” and the hospital’s incident command team is working to make sure the hospital has enough.

A spokeswoman for SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville did not respond to a question regarding ventilators.

Bortner said Mercyhealth has received an “awesome outpouring of community support” in the form of personal protective equipment donations.

Mercyhealth is working with local manufacturer Prent to boost supply, Bortner said.

Prent plans to produce 2,000 face shields for Mercyhealth workers, Bortner said.

“We are seeing the best of people during this national crisis and want to thank them,” Bortner said.

Mercyhealth workers are not allowed to bring any personal protective equipment they have at home into work with them, Bortner said.

She did not elaborate on why.

Mercyhealth is accepting donations of homemade cloth masks but will reserve them in case of emergency, Bortner said.

SSM Health spokeswoman Erica Mathis gave the following information in a statement to The Gazette.

“Our caregivers have what they need to safely deliver care. However, these items are in high-demand nationwide and supplies are limited.

“Like other health systems across the country, we are working to conserve supplies as well as finding new supply sources for certain items. This is necessary to ensure we continue to have what we need in the days and weeks ahead.”