INDIO (CBSLA) — When the call went out for retired medical professionals and students to volunteer their services in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands stepped up.
The first wave of volunteers will be headed to a field hospital set up at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio where they will be testing and treating patients.
"We've got some challenges," Shane Reichardt, with Riverside County's Emergency Management Department, said.
Reichardt said health care workers there, like many across the nation, are dealing with a limited supply of personal protective equipment and testing kits.
"These are things they've never seen before in their careers," he said.
But, fortunately, the workers on the frontline of the crisis were not dealing with a limited supply of help manning new field hospitals that have begun popping up across the state.
The California Health Corps put out a call for volunteers to prepare for the anticipated surge in coronavirus cases. The new volunteers will care for less severe patients at field hospitals like the one in Indio.
And, across the state, 35,000 people have already answered the call to help including Thomas Rood.
"Been an EMT since I was 18, so right out of high school," Rood said.
Rood was supposed to ship out to Georgia this week to join the United States Army, but he said all new recruits have been delayed due to the pandemic, so he decided to dedicate his medical training to the biggest public health crisis his generation has ever seen.
"I can just sit at home and self-quarantine, or I can actually get out and help out with the situation we have," he said.
He will soon begin his new assignment at the Riverside County Fairgrounds where up to 125 patients can be quarantined and treated in two buildings to relieve the strain on local hospitals as they treat those in need of critical, life-saving care.
"We've been so amazed by the outpouring of support," Michael Osur, Riverside County Public Health assistant director, said.
Osur said that while it's difficult to predict when the number of cases will peak in each county, the surge will be here soon.
"It's like a tsunami wave," he said. "It's coming, and we want to be prepared."
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