Emergency leaders ask for more information from S.C. health officials to combat COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 in SC
COVID-19 in SC
Updated: Mar. 29, 2020 at 10:03 AM EDT
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LANCASTER, S.C. (WBTV) - Personal protective equipment is in high demand these days.

Emergency responders need it to protect themselves when responding to scenes where coronavirus patients live.

However, Lancaster Emergency Management Director Darren Player says responders are flying in blind.

Emergency managers in South Carolina need more information from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to help the responders.

When a call comes through, Greg Brasington has to be ready.

These days, he can not always be prepared without personal protective equipment.

”Since the shortage of all safety equipment, we may not have enough equipment for them to utilize," Brasington said.

That gear includes gloves, goggles and masks.

It is crucial during the coronavirus outbreak.

Player says EMS has some of these personal protective equipment, or PPE, but deputies and firefighters do not.

Crews have enough of it now, but Player says it is in short supply.

”It wouldn’t take long to run through that or burn through that supply," Player said.

So, Player and emergency managers in the other 45 counties made a request.

They asked South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to provide them with addresses of people who tested positive for the coronavirus. That way, first responders can be protected, but only wear their PPE when needed.

”If we had the known quantity of where the COVID cases would be when it pops up in CAD like I said then we’d be able to take that extra precaution," Player said.

Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis says all 46 counties’ officials are working to get these addresses.

The South Carolina Association of Counties and the County Attorneys sent letters to Gov. Henry McMaster asking him for a gubernatorial directive for emergency managers to see addresses.

Willis says a response from the governor is dire.

”I start losing medic crews and I start losing deputies firefighters, it’s not going to be long that I’m not going to have crews to respond," Willis said.

Willis says an internal SCDHEC regulation keeps them from giving the information. In response to the requests, SCDHEC started providing zip codes for those who test positive on Friday.

Willis says it is still not enough.

”Zip codes can be several hundred square miles, thousands of people," mentions Willis. "It doesn’t really help us that much.”

Officials also checked on the national level. The U-S Department of Health and Human Services says getting the locations would not violate HIPAA.

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