By Ray King

Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Chief Shauwn Howell said Friday that his department has actually seen a slight decrease in the number of calls they have responded to as a result of the Coronavirus.

Appearing on the Oldies Morning Show with Greg Horne and Will Jenkins, Howell said dispatchers are now asking more questions than they did before and that helps determine the seriousness of the call.

“Dispatch is working with us to help determine the calls we don’t have to go on,” Howell said.

Asked about personal protection equipment, Howell said the department is not where it needs to be but things are getting better.

Howell said the biggest issue now are protective masks, which he said are in short supply nationwide and in high demand.

Asked about the costs, Howell said the masks run $3 to $5 per mask, depending on the manufacturer, and when the department has contacted manufacturers, they are being told there would be a four to six week delay before the masks were shipped.

“Or they would put some ungodly minimum on you and what we’re seeing at the national level is masks going to the highest bidder,” Howell said, going on to add that some people are asking the government to step in and put some oversight on the process because cities and states can’t compete against the private sector.

“We’re getting some in but if this thing lasts as long as they’re saying it will we don’t have enough to last the duration and my concern is when we reorder will it be four to six weeks (before a shipment arrives).”