AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The state is working to provide personal protective equipment to all schools before the first day of classes.
School districts across the state will have to make in-person teaching an option this year, according to guidelines released earlier this week by the Texas Education Agency.
In an exclusive interview with KXAN, the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s Chief Nim Kidd explained how PPE will be allocated specifically to schools, while still supplying hospitals and medical facilities.
“This is going to be kind of a blend, as we go through, so as as a hospital or an EMS agency might need some PPE, we will divert the medical PPE to those facilities, because that is the need right now,” Kidd said. “And then as we continue to bring in additional PPE, we have millions of masks on order, they’re being delivered every day. And as those come in, we’re breaking them down by district and region.”
Chief Kidd said TDEM is working closely with the TEA to determine how much each district will receive.
“They’re working based on the number of students, the number of faculty and the number of staff to make sure that we have the right amount of masks and gloves and any other ancillary equipment, including cleaning supplies, so that when school does start again, we’ll be ready for those that first day of school,” he said.
The list of supplies includes disposable and reusable masks, gloves, thermometers, hand sanitizer, and face shields.
Kidd explained the supplies would arrive at each school in Texas before the first day of classes.
“I’d say we’re a little over a third of the way through that right now,” he said.
Some teachers have expressed concern over the enforcement of wearing a mask in school, but Kidd said he hopes parents enforce it now, ahead of school starting.
“My request would be to parents: why aren’t we starting now? Even though we have school-aged children, I have a young granddaughter, she’s well under the age of 10. I promise you, she doesn’t mind wearing her mask at all. And so when we’re out in public, this is really the thing that we need to start wearing and worrying about.”
Chief Kidd said the state is well stocked on PPE.
“Governor Abbott directed us a long time ago to not only get PPE in the hands of the health care workers and first responders, but build a healthy stockpile of PPE as well. So today, we have several warehouses and secured facilities across the state that are storing PPE,” Chief Kidd explained.
There is a need, however, for more personnel.
“We have licensed beds in Texas and then we have staffed beds in Texas. A lot of our hospitals, especially the ones that recently have built out rooms with beds with all of the proper medical equipment and oxygen that is needed, but they may not be staffing that bed yet,” Chief Kidd said.
Kidd explained the state is constantly talking to hospital CEOs and health care providers.
“We know that they are running into shortages of staff. So what we’re doing is through the Department of State Health Services, we’ve had under contract three different firms today those firms have 2300 contract nurses that are scattered all over Texas, working anywhere from nursing homes into the ERs into the floors and into the ICU,” Chief Kidd said.
He also said the state is also speaking with federal partners.
“There are federal teams in Texas today that are providing additional medical support. And the calls this morning they will continue to bring resources in. Some of those may be military or health and human services providers. Some of those may be contract providers like we’re doing here at the state level.”
Kidd said the goal is to stay ahead of the surge and ahead of the demand.