A donation of N95 masks to be used by Mobile first responders was made possible by a local connection to an Israli-backed U.S. security non-profit organization.
A non-profit group run by and linked to Israelis, called Advanced Security Training Institute, has donated 1,000 masks for first responders in the city, Mobilian and ASTI board member Bridget Moses confirmed to Lagniappe Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m very pleased we were able to do that,” Moses said. “They want everyone to know they’re here for our first responders and they want to help. We put our money where our mouth is.”
Of those 1,000 masks, 500 have already been delivered to Crowne Health Care of Mobile, which was hit hard by an outbreak of COVID-19 that has led to the infection of 24 residents and six deaths according to its statement CEO Bryan Jones released to the media on Tuesday.
Jones noted that a number of COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic, which combined with a delay in lab testing results, has made controlling the spread of the virus in a closed facility difficult. Still, he commended the “day-by-day dedication” of Crowne’s staff for helping to turn the tide.
“These residents have been isolated to provide protection for our other residents and to facilitate the higher level of care required. When residents develop advanced symptoms they are being transferred to hospitals, where a higher level of care is available,” Jones wrote. “For several weeks, Crowne Health Care of Mobile has restricted visitation and implemented infection control protocols in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. We are dedicated to our residents and their families to use every resource at our disposal to see us all safely through this crisis.”
Dr. Rendi Murphree, an epidemiologist with the Mobile County Health Department, confirmed that her staff has been investigating the “cluster” of cases at Crowne and offering advice to administrators there. She also indicated the situation is starting to come under control.
“I talk with them every day, sometimes several times a day — providing advice and locating personal protective equipment (PPE) when they need it most,” Murphree said. “We are very hopeful and optimistic that the situation is contained, and after speaking with them today, there’s reason to hope they will soon be able to begin returning to normal.”
While the nursing home workers may not fit the normal definition of first responders, Mayor Sandy Stimpson, in a video press briefing, said the nurses, caretakers and maintenance staff at Crowne are just as important as other health care workers.
“Our hearts need to go out to them,” he said. “Our prayers need to go out to them, just like it has for our other health care workers.”
Another 250 of the masks will go to Franklin clinic, after owner Charles White asked the city for help, Stimpson said. Franklin was one of the first facilities Stimpson noted for testing patients.
“My understanding is it was like a kid at Christmas,” Stimpson said of White. “He was so excited to know his employees no longer had to re-use some of the masks they were using.”
Despite requests for equipment from much larger counties and cities from across the country, Moses credits a connection between ASTI founder Yisroel Stefansky, Mobile Federal Bureau of Investigation field office Special Agent James Jewell and city leaders.
Local real estate developer Jimmy Grodnick said he hosted Stefansky at his house last year when ASTI leadership visited the Port City to speak with first responders. Grodnick said the gathering featured a “who’s who of Mobile,” including hospital administrators, city leaders and others.
At the time there were discussions of sending a team from Mobile to Israel to train, but Grodnick said he doesn’t know the status of those discussions now.
With that gathering in mind, Grodnick said he “planted a seed” and reached out to Moses about possibly asking ASTI about masks.
“The next thing I know I get an email that reads: ‘Your wish has been granted,’” he said. “I’m delighted that I may have planted a seed and I’m grateful those in-demand masks are in Mobile now.”
Moses explained that she reached out to Stefansky only to hear back that Jewell had already made the request and it had been granted.
In addition to the masks, the city recently received a shipment of 6,000 COVID-19 test kits from Mobile’s Synergy Laboratories. A number of those kits will be distributed to local hospitals to be used for their workers, Stimpson said in his Wednesday briefing.
Of the 6,000 kits, 1,200 were given to USA Health University Hospital, 1,000 were given to Mobile Infirmary and 1,000 were given to Providence Hospital. Springhill Memorial Hospital told the city it didn’t need any more tests, Stimpson said.
The city also provided test kits to Lynwood Nursing Home for use among staff there, Stimpson said.
Jason Johnson contributed to this report
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