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Coronavirus Outbreak: Colorado ER Doctor Expects 'Tsunami Of Illness ... In About 9-10 Days'

DENVER (CBS4) - Dr. Susan Ryan, an emergency room physician in Denver, said Friday what a lot of people are feeling.

"I've got anxiety about getting it (COVID-19) myself. I'm almost 60 and a lot of sick people are coming to the ER and a lot of fearful ones," Ryan said.

Susan Ryan
Dr. Susan Ryan (credit: CBS)

She then left an interview with CBS4 to pull a 12 hour shift in the ER.

She said if the U.S. follows the curve of Italy, "I think the tsunami of illness is coming in about nine to 10 days."

While she said her hospital is not yet rationing or running low on supplies, other hospitals and health care workers across the country have said their facilities are already running low on personal protective equipment, or PPE.

Critical equipment like face masks and shields, gloves and surgical gowns are already running low, well before the full impact of coronavirus is expected to hit.

With that in mind, operating room nurses Kristen Dirksen and Brady Heuer at Valley View hospital in Glenwood Springs decided to take action this week. They were brainstorming what to do to help their facility and decided they could create surgical-type masks. By Wednesday, they pitched it to administrators and said "it was an overwhelmingly well received project," according to Dirksen.

"We hit the ground running."

By Wednesday afternoon, armed with sewing machines and fabric, nurses and doctors and staff members were cranking out masks, which are being used now to preserve regular, heavier duty surgical masks for later, when the full force of the pandemic is expected to hit hospitals.

"We're rocking some masks out," said Heuer.

By Friday afternoon, the nurses said they had three rooms with 10 people in each room making DIY masks. They were up to 500 already made but they are shooting for 10,000. =

"We are going to make as many as we can," said Dirksen.

The cause is being taken up in homes and businesses around Colorado.

CBS4 viewer Kathy Vandamme sewed two masks at her home Thursday night, and many other viewers have contacted the station saying they are doing the same.

"And people are stepping up and starting to sew masks," said Ryan. "We may never need them, but it's an opportunity for people to harness their anxiety which we all have."

RELATED: Latest Updates On The Coronavirus Outbreak In Colorado

Gov. Jared Polis ordered a stop to elective surgical procedures to preserve the personal protective equipment equipment. He said he believes Colorado is about two weeks away from meeting a deficit in PPE.

On Friday afternoon, State Rep. Alec Garnett announced a PPE drive this Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. at Empower Field at Mile High. Items will be given to Colorado hospitals. Organizers are asking for the following:

- Sterile and non-sterile gloves - unopened boxes, latex free preferred
- Hand sanitizer - unopened containers
- Bleach bottles or sprays - unopened containers
- Bleach wipes - unopened containers
- Isopropyl alcohol - unopened bottles
- Eye protections and goggles - unused in box or wrapper
- Clear face shields - these look like welders' masks but are translucent, unused only
- Masks - tie, ear loop - unopened boxes only (no cloth masks)
- Respirator masks - N95, N99, P100 - all sizes in unopened boxes. Extra filters are also needed for these devices.
- PAPR respirators - 3M or MaxAir - unused. Hoods, filters, batteries, chargers, tubes to go with these units are also needed.
- Disposable gowns - unused isolation gowns
- Shoe covers - unopened boxes
- Biohazard bags - unused

Donors are asked to enter through Mile High's J parking lot on the northwest side of the complex.

Dr. Ryan also suggested people shift their thinking, and simply assume everyone is infected with the virus and lives their lives accordingly by maintaining social distancing, wiping contact surfaces down in your home two to three times a day.

She said if you go to the grocery store, wipe down your credit card before and after paying. Wipe down your steering wheel and the groceries when you get home.

"It's a smarter position to take," said Ryan. "Why not shift to what we can do which is assume everyone has it and act accordingly, and then you will see this burn itself out better."

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