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News >  Spokane

PPE, please: Spokane leaders envision one-stop shop to supply businesses with masks, gloves

UPDATED: Tue., May 5, 2020

Katie Emmert prepares a drink at the coffee bar in the DoubleTree Hotel in Spokane on April 17, 2020. Spokane officials are considering ideas to create a procurement system for PPE, such as masks, in Spokane County. The idea is to offer local businesses and others a central marketplace to obtain vital equipment that will help employees and customers feel safe. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Katie Emmert prepares a drink at the coffee bar in the DoubleTree Hotel in Spokane on April 17, 2020. Spokane officials are considering ideas to create a procurement system for PPE, such as masks, in Spokane County. The idea is to offer local businesses and others a central marketplace to obtain vital equipment that will help employees and customers feel safe. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

It doesn’t take a Costco membership and a 30-pack of toilet paper to understand the logic of buying in bulk.

The more you purchase, the better the deal.

That’s exactly what Spokane County officials are considering for the personal protective equipment that will be much-needed by service providers and local businesses as they prepare to reopen.

As the economy slowly lurches back to life, it presumably will do so with new guidelines to protect public health. Be it a movie theater or restaurant, its customers and employees may likely need to wear masks and gloves.

But obtaining that gear, known as personal protective equipment, in the wake of a pandemic is likely to be an entirely new endeavor for a local business.

Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs wants to create a procurement system for PPE in Spokane County, offering local businesses and others a central marketplace to obtain vital equipment that will help employees and customers feel safe.

It’s one of several ideas under consideration by regional leaders as they work to prepare for an eventual reopening of the economy if and when Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order expires.

“You try to look at what’s something that everyone’s going to need, but don’t necessarily have the expertise to get,” Beggs said.

Beggs envisions the procurement system being led by the Spokane Regional Health District, which has overseen Spokane County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If it is anything like PPE, testing or consultants, it’s probably the health district leading it with a bunch of new employees or contracts,” Beggs said.

The concept isn’t to provide businesses and service providers with free PPE, just a one-stop shop to obtain it.

In an effort to support local businesses, Spokane County Commission Chairman Al French wants to buy locally. He said there’s an effort underway to reach out and see if some would be willing to “retool or two-tool” to produce protective equipment or other materials valuable to the recovery, such as testing equipment.

“I would rather invest that money into local businesses that can make these resources locally,” French said.

For example, businesses with 1 to 10 employees are going to pay far more per pair of gloves than a major competitor, French noted.

By combining the resources, French said the county would “leverage the buying strength of the county versus leaving mom-and-pops on their own.”

“If we can provide that product and allow people to get back to work faster, that’s the win,” French said.

Other proposals include hiring experts at the health district to assist businesses in complying with whatever new public health guidelines and restrictions the governor orders as they are allowed to reopen. For example, such a person could aid a restaurant forced to reduce their capacity to allow for sufficient social distancing inside.

The infrastructure to support businesses could be funded through money allocated to the county through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

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