HUNTERDON COUNTY, NJ - Hunterdon County Freeholders announced Tuesday donations of emergency PPE (personal protective equipment) and ongoing efforts to support the medical professionals, healthcare workers and first responders actively serving the communities of the county during the coronavirus pandemic and public health emergency.

Freeholder J. Matthew Holt announced that the current and past Hunterdon County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Health Department officials had saved for a rainy day and built fiscal reserves that have assisted in emergency preparedness. Holt said there are PPE resources provided by these county divisions serving as a “protective bridge” from what the existing supply was, and resources the county anticipates to eventually be directed here during the pandemic from the State OEM and the national stockpile.

“As we tap into that reserve, as of this time and since the emergence of the COVID-19 public health emergency in February, the Health Department and OEM have provided more than 70,000 protective items to Hunterdon County first responders and to Hunterdon Healthcare, many care centers, nursing homes, care centers and medical providers,” he said. “Our purchasing department has combed the marketplace to identify other sources of key needed materials from masks and gloves to 12 oz. pumps of hand sanitizers.”  

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By March 31, the Hunterdon County Purchasing Department had procured 20,000 n95 masks, many cases of Clorox disinfecting wipes, cases of hand sanitizer and about 11,000 gloves.

“We continue to scour the market to look at providing more supplies,” Holt said. “I give tremendous credit to our OEM operations and for our health department for being as prepared as they were with reserve resources in the eventuality of a very public health crisis, which we are experiencing with coronavirus now.”

Deputy Freeholder Director Susan Soloway explained that the Hunterdon County Office of Economic Development reached out to area businesses the week of March 23 seeking donations of masks, gloves and other materials for distribution to medical personnel and first responders, coordinated by the county OEM and health department.

Over 30 entities have also donated more than 10,000 “vital pieces of equipment,” including PPE, sterile gowns, a variety of masks, eye protection and disinfecting materials to Hunterdon County governmental divisions recently.

“This was followed by a general solicitation made by the county to other groups and individuals seeking donations of resources for people on the front lines of our COVID-19 battle,” Soloway said. “The response has been overwhelming, and many donors have done so anonymously, with the United Way of Hunterdon County being the repository and coordinating this program. We thank every group and individual who has donated, and the donations continue coming in.”

The Freeholder Board thanked the Flemington-Raritan School District and other Hunterdon districts and schools for their donations during Tuesday’s meeting.

Anyone interested in donations of equipment and disinfecting materials is directed to the new section of the County website for PPE Donations.

The Hunterdon County Health Department is also currently seeking volunteers to assist with its Medical Reserve Corps (MRC).

This week, county health officer Karen DeMarco said there were 117 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hunterdon County as of March 31, with 24 new cases confirmed shortly before the 5:30 p.m. freeholder board’s virtual meeting.

As of April 2, the number of confirmed cases went up to 131, with the statewide total up to 25,590 cases and 527 deaths as of Thursday.

“We’ve also seen an increase in emergency department visits as well as more admissions to Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, and we keep in close contact daily with the administration of the medical center and other healthcare providers to gather information,” DeMarco said. “For each of the cases reported to the county health office, specifically our public health nurses and preparedness staff identify those individuals who may have had close contact with infected persons, and they notify them and advise them to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days. Those who experience mild symptoms are advised to isolate and recover at home and to contact their healthcare providers as needed.”

“If symptoms worsen or continue to occur, particularly shortness of breath, residents are encouraged to call 911 and seek additional medical care,” she added. “It is important that individuals follow the guidance to stay home and limit interactions with each other. Those who experience just mild symptoms may spread the virus to others who could be impacted more severely.”