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How community colleges are supporting the fight against COVID-19 in NC

As North Carolina surpasses 2,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, health care providers are scrambling to find supplies they need, including masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment for their workers. They are also taking inventory of available hospital beds and ventilators.

The latest projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) out of the University of Washington show North Carolina may need between 118 to 446 invasive ventilators by April 14.

Atrium Health Stanly now has four more of them, courtesy of Stanly Community College (SCC), which donated the Siemens Maquet Servo-i ventilators it had been using to train students in health sciences. These mechanical breathing devices are in high demand because they support lung function for patients who become seriously ill and have trouble breathing.

Their ventilators are each estimated at $70,000 in value, according to the college.

“Having a campus facility dedicated to health care education, we already knew we had equipment and supplies that may be helpful,” said SCC President John Enamait. “I reached out early on and offered any assistance before Stanly County even had its first case.”

SCC has worked to respond to COVID-19 for many weeks, Enamait said. On January 30, the college sent out a communication to all staff members noting the need for personal hygiene. On March 4, Enamait’s office sent out additional messages to faculty and staff, launched a communications campaign around the importance of hand washing, increased sanitizing efforts across campus, and secured hand sanitizer supplies for all classrooms and common areas. And on March 10, SCC banned all non-clinical travel. 

Once SCC ended face-to-face instruction on March 16, the college began to consider other avenues to support the broader community response to COVID-19.

Aside from donating the ventilators, SCC alerted Atrium Health that its campus is available as needed — including hospital beds and classrooms for those battling the illness.

Enamait said the school is considering other ways to help the community. “As we made the decision to restrict physical access to campus, SCC donated all of the food in our food pantries to a local Christian ministries,” he said. “We, like some other community colleges, have begun checking out Chromebooks to our students as well.”

When asked about the scope of the contributions, Enamait said: “We knew we had valuable resources that could ultimately help save lives. Frankly, I wasn’t concerned about the costs associated with these items.”

Stanly Community College is not the only college contributing supplies to combat the pandemic. The NC Community College system office provided the following list of other community college contributions to local health systems in response to COVID-19:

Small Business Centers: The North Carolina Community Colleges Small Business Center Network (SBCN) will provide assistance with SBA disaster loan applications and other sources of funding, review of financial obligations and discussions with creditors, strategies for scaling operations and generating revenue, and referrals to additional sources of assistance. Webinars on timely business topics to help sustain small businesses, as well as robust resources related to the COVID-19 pandemic, are also available at NC SBCN COVID-19 Resources.

Asheville-Buncombe Technical College: EMS instructors created a 12-minute video on COVID-19 prevention for first responders. Video is here. Various departments donated personal protective equipment to Buncombe County and Madison County emergency management: 700 gowns and 300 masks from Emergency Services Department; 20,000 gloves, 150 gowns, and 300 surgical masks from nursing assistant program; 200 masks, 50 containers of hand sanitizers and wipes from cosmetology and computer labs; more than 100 disposable coveralls from the Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast. AB-Tech BioNetwork team donated PPE — coveralls, masks, face shields, shoe covers, 8,600 gloves.

Bladen Community College: Donated PPE to Bladen County Hospital, including masks, goggles, isolation gowns, surgical caps, shoe covers, hand sanitizer, gloves, and temp probe covers.

Blue Ridge Community College: College parking lot has been used as a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site for Pardee UNC Health. The college’s Emergency Medical Science, Nursing, Nurse Aide, and Surgical Technology programs donated a large amount of medical supplies to Pardee UNC Health Care and Advent Health Asheville, as well as first responder agencies.

Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute: Donated masks, gowns, and shoe covers to Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care. Using 3-D printers, faculty and staff are making plastic face shields to donate. Hosted a blood drive March 27 in the college’s gym to allow for appropriate social distancing. Loaning 75 Chromebooks donated by Google for college students to access online education.

Cape Fear Community College: Donated about $4,400 worth of PPE, including 300 boxes of gloves, 20 boxes of masks, 95 N95 masks, 20 bottles of disinfectant spray, 12 tubs of medical-grade disinfectant wipes, and 35 isolation gowns.

Central Carolina Community College: Donated supplies to area community health care providers. Supplies were given to Central Carolina Hospital, Chatham Hospital UNC Health Care, FirstHealth of the Carolinas, Harnett Health, tlc of Sanford, and Transitions Life Care. Donations included hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial soap, disinfectant wipes, masks, gloves, gowns, face shields, safety goggles, and shoe covers.

Central Piedmont Community College: Donated medical supplies from health care programs to Atrium Health and Novant Health in Mecklenburg County. WTVI-PBS Charlotte is broadcasting four hours of educational programming daily tied to both North Carolina and South Carolina state standards, with online lesson plans and more than 100,000 digital resources for teachers, caregivers and students. Central Piedmont’s hospitality education program joined with Sysco Foods and Piedmont Culinary Guild to package and deliver 500 boxes of food to local restaurant employees who have lost wages during the pandemic.

Cleveland Community College: Set up Wi-Fi hot spots in the college parking lot and collaborated with Cleveland County Schools to help set up hot spots in parking lots at public schools. Hot spots are available seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

College of the Albemarle: The college donated PPE to Outer Banks Hospital, Sentara Albemarle Medical Center and Vidant Chowan Hospital. The supplies included 275 boxes of gloves, 1,670 masks (including 150 vital N95 masks), 950 isolation gowns and hundreds of shoe and head coverings, face shields, and other protective gear. The supplies came from a number of departments at the college’s four locations.

Durham Technical Community College: Donated PPE and supplies to UNC Health and Duke Health, including gowns, masks, protective eyewear, gloves, and hand sanitizer, amounting to 3,000 individual supplies. The supplies came from a variety of departments, including anesthesia technology, nursing, medical assisting, nurse aid, occupational therapy assistant, pharmacy technology, respiratory therapy, and surgical technology.

Edgecombe Community College: Donated gloves, gowns, and masks to Vidant Edgecombe Hospital in Tarboro, Nash UNC Health Care in Rocky Mount and Edgecombe County.

Forsyth Technical Community College: Started “Forsyth Tech Cares,” a college-wide initiative to help students and staff make it through the crisis. A task force of staff and faculty, especially those who cannot telework in their current jobs, will become student advocates to help them connect with services.

Gaston College: They donated over 9,000 medical supplies today to CaroMont Regional Medical Center and Atrium Health Lincolnton to help local care providers protect medical care workers from COVID-19.

Halifax Community College: Nursing Department donated four packs of isolation gowns, 25 masks with face shields and 40 face masks to Vidant North. The college’s dental hygiene department donated masks and gloves to the college’s Learning Resource Center to protect students who need to access online resources there.

Haywood Community College: HCC High Tech Center will be used as a large command post for Haywood County Emergency Management.

James Sprunt Community College: Donated 2,000 masks to Vidant Duplin. The college has also agreed to provide space for child care for Vidant Duplin personnel if necessary.

Mitchell Community College: Public safety and health sciences departments donated 525 N95 masks to Iredell County Emergency Management and are working with local hospitals to donate other PPE. Mitchell’s Foundation is providing a $150 laptop grant supplement for students who need a device to complete online coursework.

Montgomery Community College: Donated cases of gloves, masks, and gowns to First Health and Autumn Care nursing home.

Nash Community College: Donated isolation gowns, gloves, masks, eye shields, hair caps, and sanitizing wipes from its programs in medical assisting, physical therapist assistant, nursing, and veterinary medical technology. The donations went to Nash UNC Health Care and Nash County Emergency Services.

Piedmont Community College: Donating medical supplies to local health agencies.

Pitt Community College BioNetwork: Donated PPE and supplies, including 500 surgical masks, 1,500 pairs of gloves, gowning supplies, and disposable lab coats.

Robeson Community College: Created “The Learning Lot,” a drive-in Wi-Fi area at the college, open to students and the public, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon-Thurs, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fri-Sat. The lot is monitored by campus security and social distancing measures must be followed.

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College: Donated medical masks, gloves, and other PPE to Atrium Health, Novant Health and the W.G. “Bill” Hefner VA Medical Center.

South Piedmont Community College: Developed a series of fully online short-term courses specifically for those affected by COVID-19. For a $5 registration fee, the public can sign up for classes in homeschooling (including algebra review), strategies and retooling for the underemployed, updating resumes, Adobe Photoshop, Office Software Applications, etc. Other courses provide personal growth opportunities in art, home repair, Spanish, personal finance.

Southwestern Community College: Nursing program donated a large box of supplies to Harris Regional Hospital, including gowns, face masks, and N95 masks. The college offered Wi-Fi in its parking lots and held a curbside pickup of pre-packaged bags of breakfast, lunch, and dinner for students.

Stanly Community College: Donated four ventilators and other PPE and medical supplies to Atrium Health Stanly.

Surry Community College: Donated gloves, gowns, and masks to Northern Regional Hospital in Mount Airy and Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital in Elkin.

Tri-County Community College: Part of campus serves as coordination point for local health department regarding testing sites.

Vance-Granville Community College: Donated 1,000 gloves, 15 gowns, and 10 masks to Mariah Parham Medical Center and Granville Medical Center.

Wake Technical Community College: Donated PPE, including 74,000 gloves, 3,000 masks and hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer from several programs, including nursing, dental hygiene, emergency medical science, as well as criminal justice, skilled trades, fine arts and the BioNetwork Capstone Center. The supplies were donated to Wake Med, Duke University Hospital, UNC Rex Healthcare and Transitions Life Care. Also included were lab coats and gowns, goggles, ethanol, visors, N95 masks and applicators. Supplies also went to Wake County EMS, Wake County Human Services and Glenaire Retirement Community.

Wayne Community College: Purchased billboard with public service announcement about social distancing. The college also hosted a drive-thru supply drive March 23-28, where people could donate hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, and other health supplies.

Western Piedmont Community College: Provided one emergency ventilator to the Burke County Emergency Management, as well as PPE, including: 6,000 pairs of gloves, 200 surgical masks, 25 face shields, 80 isolation gowns, and 10 full PPE kits. WPCC’s director for occupational extension programs will manage logistics as needed for any Burke County Emergency Management mobilization as part of his official college duties.

Wilkes Community College: Applied engineering faculty are making face shields to donate to Ashe Memorial Hospital, doctors offices and Watauga Medical Center.

Wilson Community College: Donated 350 surgical masks and 300 gowns to Wilson Fire/Rescue Services. The college also donated 2,940 masks to the Wilson County Health Department, which included 1,440 N95 masks and 1,500 procedural masks.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the director of growth for EducationNC.