Utah’s PPE Push Pack Program

Utah’s PPE Challenge

After focusing intensely on sourcing PPE for hospitals and first responders during the “Red” stage of Utah’s COVID-19 response, we recognized that PPE would quickly become a much broader need as we safely reopened our economy. Through surveys, interviews and other data gathering, we identified Utah small businesses without an existing PPE supply chain as the most likely to struggle to find PPE for their staff. Their challenges were twofold – no existing vendors, and in many cases, cashflow gaps.

We knew the answer rested in the areas of immediate inventory, broad communications, and a quick and supportable delivery process. As the State’s Unified Command addressed each area, Utah’s PPE Push Pack program came into focus.

We analyzed the potential PPE needs of 68,500 Utah businesses with 50 or fewer employees, excluding only healthcare and public sector employers. We used OSHA Guidance to analyze which PPE different employees would need based on their potential level of exposure. We identified disposable masks, disposable gloves and hand sanitizer as the most useful short-term supplies and projected program costs assuming one week of “start-up” PPE for each company.

Next, we coordinated with the County Emergency Managers and Local Health Departments to  identify downstream local PPE pickup locations for each county or region. These 27 groups served as local champions to accept shipments from the State and manage final distribution to the businesses. We messaged the program broadly but swiftly, with only a 10-day sign up window, to get PPE into the hands of small businesses who needed it as rapidly and efficiently as possible.

What We Did

Through substantial donations from the private sector (including a donation of 1 million masks from ICON) and allocation of available purchased inventory, the State’s Unified Command had enough PPE on hand to serve any small business who asked based on our projections. We then launched an online form for businesses to request PPE, and communicated the program via social media, an announcement from the Governor, and through the central coronavirus.utah.gov website. Our Multicultural Taskforce helped us post a parallel Spanish language site and spread the word in other non-English speaking communities. Approximately 3,600 businesses from every county in the state filled out the form in a matter of days. Most of these businesses were in the hospitality, restaurant, and personal services industries.

Concurrently, we did the math on the inventory units we had in stock to determine the contents of each PPE Push Pack. With the guiding principle not to open (and potentially contaminate) any unit of PPE, we charted how much PPE to give to each business, based on our units and their number of employees. For example, the smallest employers received an unopened box of 20 masks, while the largest received two boxes of 50 masks. National Guard soldiers and other volunteers assembled individual packs for each requesting business, and the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control staff lent their packaging and tracking expertise to the effort.

Distribution and delivery took place at the county level. Each County identified a location where they could receive and distribute PPE, which varied from health departments to stadiums to sheriff’s offices. While the shipping trucks started to roll, the team communicated by email to each of the 3,600 businesses, indicating when and where they could pick up their PPE Push Packs.

From the initial modeling to final delivery, the entire PPE Push Pack process took less than two weeks to execute and cost less than $250,000. When factoring in donations, the cost was under $200,000 to cover about 45,000 employees. 

We wouldn’t have been able to execute as efficiently or effectively on the PPE Push Pack program if we hadn’t already spent two months building a robust PPE inventory, a network of partners and a smooth, statewide distribution system.  This proactive approach provided us the flexibility needed to complete this project.  We’re currently working on an ongoing Mission Plan to keep our Medical Supplies Working Group ready to respond to future threats as we continue to adapt to COVID-19 in Utah.

Lessons Learned

There was little time to publicize the program through a traditional awareness campaign, so undoubtedly many small businesses did not catch wind of it. If we would have had more time, we could have had greater statewide awareness of our PPE Push Pack program.

Identifying the county-level distribution points proved more complicated than anticipated. Some of the rural counties simply don’t have the staffing at – say – a health department office that a more urban county enjoys.

Hand sanitizer was initially a distribution challenge, as we bought it in bulk to save on costs. Utah company Young Living Essentials Oils came through with a donation of 20,000 shampoo bottles which we used to break down sanitizer into quantities more suitable for PPE Push Packs.

We still haven’t found a way to support the PPE needs of non-urgent health care – dentists, pediatricians, physical therapists, etc. – with more specialized health-care PPE.

Collaboration with Restart Partners

Utah’s culture and business environment rest on our sense of community and willingness to collaborate. We have a long history of public-private initiatives to address our societal needs.

When we learned of the resources and expertise of the Restart Partners Project, we recognized kindred spirits and deep technical knowledge. We look forward to using some of the tools that others have developed while sharing best practices.