The city of Lincoln tried to stock up on personal protection equipment last week, issuing a series of emergency bid requests seeking supplies to keep its employees safe.
Like nearly 400 gallons of hand sanitizer in various quantities, including 1,000 12-ounce containers and a 55-gallon barrel. And 42,000 respirator masks. More than 40,000 disposable exam gloves, and 6,000 isolation gowns.
But it might have to take what it can get, when it can get it.
A single supplier responded to the bid for N95 respirator masks, offering to sell pallets — or 3,840 masks — for $1,171. But it can’t guarantee delivery, said Bob Walla, the city’s purchasing agent.
And the same Illinois company was the one only to bite on the hand sanitizer bid, with a quote for more than $46,000. The city accepted the offer — and the mayor signed an executive order Tuesday — but the sanitizer won’t come anytime soon.
“We’re on the list right now,” Walla said. “But they’re looking at around four weeks for delivery.”
The city also accepted the bid for exam gloves — $1,863 — from the only company that responded, and the request for isolation gowns was still open Wednesday.
The protective gear will benefit employees from multiple departments, said Scott Holmes, the environmental public health director for the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.
This week, the fire and police departments announced ramped-up efforts to protect their staff from potential exposure to the coronavirus when responding to calls. And many city employees have routinely worn protective equipment in the course of their duties, Holmes said, such as health department nurses and dental staff.
“This is not unusual for us to order PPE,” he said. “The issue right now is the difficulty of obtaining it.”