A fire department in southeast Minnesota has said it's suspending its Emergency Medical Services due to a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The announced was made last week by the Stewartville Fire Department, describing it as an "extremely difficult decision."
After guidance from several regional and state boards, the fire department said it will temporarily suspend its medical first responder operations partly because there's not enough PPE "to appropriately protect the community and ourselves at this time."
"Despite our repeated requests, this equipment is currently being triaged to hospitals and ambulance services to provide the maximum benefit," it said.
The department notes that it's the only fire service provider for Stewartville and the surrounding townships, and that it will still respond to reports of fires, vehicle crashes, and "specialized rescue missions."
For local residents, the fire department says "DO NOT PANIC!" and to call 911 in the event of an emergency, as ambulances, police and fire services will still be dispatched depending on the specific emergency.
"The SFD Executive board and City Administration will continuously monitor the situation," it said. "First response services will resume as soon as safely possibly."
It comes amid a statewide and nationwide shortage of PPE, with the Minnesota Department of Health saying Sunday that it was down to 1 week's supply of medical gowns, while its supply of other PPE was only good for another 2-6 weeks pending future PPE deliveries.