For about a dozen ambulance services that received free boxes of personal protective equipment Tuesday during a distribution of masks, gowns and face shields at AHN Hempfield Neighborhood Hospital, the initiative was a lifesaver — literally and financially, recipients said.

“This will really help out. (PPE is) in really short supply. We’re dealing with covid patients, and this will protect ourselves and the people we help,” said Amy MacMannis, a paramedic for Jeannette EMS.

“This (distribution) goes beyond words. It’s been a struggle to search for proper PPE,” said Randy Highlands, Jeannette EMS operations director.

As he watched AHN and Highmark representatives load boxes of gear into a vehicle, Lorenzo Garino, operations director for Mutual Aid Ambulance Service in Greensburg, said such a “generous donation” was worth “thousands and thousands of dollars.”

The PPE was distributed on a day when Allegheny and Westmoreland counties saw the most additional covid cases in about a month, according to data from the state and local health department. The number of new cases in Allegheny topped 300 for the first this month, and in Westmoreland there were 100 more cases — 23 confirmed and 77 probable. The new case count is the most since Feb. 3, when 115 cases were reported in Westmoreland.

Mutual Aid and Jeannette EMS were among the emergency medical service providers from Allegheny, Fayette, Indiana, Washington and Westmoreland counties to receive PPE at the hospital along Route 30. The initiative was one of four PPE distributions to about 90 EMS agencies this week by AHN and Highmark Health. Others are to be held at Neighborhood hospitals in Brentwood, Harmar and McCandless over the next 10 days. Pittsburgh EMS received PPE on Monday at Highmark Health’s offices in the city.

EMS agencies in Kecksburg, the Mon Valley, Mt. Pleasant, Murrysville, North Huntingdon, Penn Township and Rostraver/West Newton also received PPE. About 25,000 K-N-95 masks, 20,000 gowns, 20,000 disposable face masks and 2,000 face shields were distributed at AHN Hempfield, said Robert Twaddle, AHN vice president of pre-hospital care.

“The supply chain and distribution chain have opened up recently” compared to the early months of the pandemic last year, Twaddle said, allowing AHN to acquire the PPE.

First responders were allotted a certain quantity of supplies based on their specific needs, said Emily Beatty, a spokeswoman for Highmark Health.

AHN and Highmark Health will donate about $6 million worth of PPE through the neighborhood hospitals in the region, as well as future distributions in Northwestern Pennsylvania, community organizations and more than 400 school districts throughout Pennsylvania and Delaware, Beatty said

Shane Spielvogle, executive director of North Huntingdon EMS/Rescue, was thankful they were getting “so much gear.”

“This saves us from having to buy it,” Spielvogle said.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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