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Central Florida counties struggle to find protective equipment for first responders

Counties competing for same products

ORLANDO, Fla. – Some Central Florida counties report they are only getting a fraction of the personal protection equipment they’re ordering for first responders.

"We have not come close to receiving the supplies that Orange County needs," said one county official during Tuesday's virtual county commissioners meeting.

According to a presentation during the meeting, the county reported it has ordered 234,701 N-95 masks, and it has only received 36,046 of them.

They reported ordering 73,691 gowns and only receiving 9,282.

They said they ordered 30,818 bottles of hand sanitizer and only received 1,700.

"Many of the supplies we simply haven't been able to get because of the global demand," said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

“We’re all competing for the same products, the same items and we have never seen this before,” said Bill Litton, Osceola County Emergency Management Director.

Litton said his agency has had to put down big deposits on some orders and pay up front for others.

“Then there are the vendors and other companies are coming after us, promising these items and then in turn there’s no items there. They’re ghosts,” he said.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Orlando, and Rep Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, released a letter they sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday.

It claimed Orlando police and fire are “dangerously low” on personal protection equipment, and it asked the governor to push some of the supplies to agencies that need it.

News 6 contacted the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

“The Florida Division of Emergency Management receives supplies on a rolling basis and is constantly distributing those supplies across the state,” said spokesman Jason Mahon. “We are continuing to work closely with our local partners from every region and will continue to provide supplies as they are received.”

Jared Moskowitz, the director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management who says he’s been in contact with White House officials regarding the need for supplies, said in a news conference Wednesday that everyone is competing for the same supplies.

“We are competing against everybody but Antarctica for masks,” Moskowitz said.

Moskowitz said millions of masks have been ordered nationwide but several states are having trouble getting supplies delivered. He said getting PPE to everyone on the front lines during the crisis is one of his agency’s top priorities.

Orlando police and fire departments told News 6 they have what they need right now, but they’re looking at their options for the future.

“Every day we pursue every opportunity with local businesses and private vendors, as well as county, state, and federal governments, to obtain the critical PPE our officers and personnel need to remain on the job, serving and protecting the City of Orlando,” said a spokesperson.

Flagler County Emergency services also reported problems with getting PPE for their first responders.

“Our supply requests are trickling in,” said director Jonathan Lord. “We fully understand the supply systems limitations, and we are not just waiting for the state to deliver.”

Flagler, Orlando and Osceola leaders asked residents to donate any PPE they may have to first responders to help in the event of any shortage of supply.


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