As the fight against coronavirus continues, it is integral to ensure the medical personnel on the frontlines of the pandemic have access to personal protective equipment (PPE). In order to process the offers coming into Wisconsin’s State Emergency Operations Center, at the Department of Military Affairs in Madison, from businesses and individuals wanting to help fill PPE shortages, members from several state agencies were brought together to form a PPE triage team.
Among the nine employees from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) tagged to join the team was Brittany Grunewald of Waterloo. Grunewald, 34, has been with the DOR since December 2016. She is currently an IS Business Automation Senior, serving as a business analyst for the audit bureau’s program development and audit integration and automation unit.
Her participation in the PPE triage team was the result of being asked by a team leader.
“One of the team leads that was working at the SEOC mentioned that they were looking for people and thought I would be a good fit if I was interested, so I then offered to do it,” Grunewald said. “I was thrilled I was suggested. I wanted to help the SEOC to contribute even a small part to help with the pandemic.”
According to a release from the DOR, Grunewald and her DOR co-workers do initial vetting of offers coming into the SEOC. Offers go through the vetting process to verify credibility. Those approved are forwarded to the procurement team for further vetting. There are individuals impersonating real businesses and using other means to take advantage of the current situation, making the vetting process a vital first step.
Grunewald said most of the day is spent reviewing and reaching out to contacts who have submitted information for offering PPE.
“It’s extraordinary to see the generosity and dedication people are putting into the effort as a whole,” the Waterloo resident said. “Everyone is so willing to help and appreciative for the joint effort of all involved.”
The DOR said offers coming before the triage team are a mix of donations, proposals to sell, and manufacturers willing to adapt product lines to make PPE. Among the biggest needs for COVID-19 frontline workers are gloves, foot coverings, thermometers, Tyvek coveralls, face shields, isolation gowns, face-surgical masks and N-95 respirators.
Demand is constantly changing, but Grunewald said the team is upbeat and adapts to do whatever is necessary.
“Everyone does a great job of adjusting on the fly to make sure we are doing everything we can to help with the pandemic efficiently and effectively,” the DOR employee said.
According to a DOR release, once an offer is approved and any purchasing requirements are completed, the PPE is shipped to a central warehouse where staff inspect the PPE before shipping it to locations throughout the state.
They expedite smaller PPE offers—for example, 20 or fewer boxes of gloves—by directly connecting donors with healthcare providers and emergency personnel near them. Bypassing the warehouse and fast-tracking these deliveries means PPE gets into the right hands sooner.
“It felt great to help and be involved in something so much bigger than myself,” Grunewald said.