National Guard distributes personal protective equipment at North Haven rec center


NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– Connecticut’s Air National Guard took over the North Haven Recreation Center Tuesday morning as a Personal Protective Equipment distribution center.

Lining up on one side of the building were first responders: Police, Fire, and ambulance crews. On the other side were representatives from local nursing homes and residential care facilities.

In boxes carried around by a military-grade forklift was the armor needed by those on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus: Things like gloves, masks and gowns. Delivering them are other kinds of warriors: The Air National Guard. They are used to helping out in emergencies.

“This is sort of a unique one for us though because of the fact that it is an ever-evolving situation,” said Air National Guard Staff Sergeant Steven Tucker. “We’ve never really faced a pandemic quite like this one before.”

Lining up on one street were workers from nursing homes and rehab centers from miles away. First in line is Nancy DePaola from Gladeview Rehab in Old Saybrook, where they have had a very tough time finding masks.

“It has been extremely difficult,” DePaola said. “We’re working on many of the home-made or donated masks right now.”

While the focus has been mainly on hospitals testing and treating patients with Covid-19, that personal protective equipment is needed in lots of different health care jobs.

“We probably get 2-3 calls a day from home health care agencies begging for any kind of N-95 mask, any kind of masks,” said Maura Esposito, the health director of the Chesprocott Health District.

Esposito will be taking a portion of the equipment from North Haven to Cheshire High School where she will share it with nine different health districts.

Agencies picking up PPE in North Haven had to sign up and order ahead, then wait in a long line, but this equipment is precious and badly needed to protect those trying to help others.

“Many of these people who are ill are nurses, are correctional people,” said Esposito. “They just want to get back on that front line because that’s just the nature of us.”

Many others have been continuing that fight, but with PPE cobbled together or home-made. They want to be on the front lines, but they need that armor.

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