The Vigo County School Corp. has donated hundreds of N95 masks to the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency to aid in the community’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

EMA plans to distribute the masks to first responders.

VCSC donates N95 masks to first responders

Tribune-Star/Sue LoughlinIn high demand: The Vigo County School Corp. donated more than 660 N95 masks to Vigo County EMA Wednesday for use by first responders. The district located the surplus masks in storage.

The masks have been sitting in storage, many dating back to the 2009 H1N1 novel influenza A outbreak, said Tom Balitewicz, VCSC director of student services. “We found a surplus of N95 masks,” used by those in the medical community and emergency services to provide protection from COVID-19 infection.

VCSC also located some masks through its Career-Technology Education program.

The district was able to donate more than 660 of the N95 masks, Balitewicz said. The masks filter out at least 95% of very small particles, including bacteria and viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“They don’t do us any good sitting in a store room at this point in time,” he said. “It is a surplus we have.”

He encouraged other businesses or groups that have N95s or other protective equipment they don’t need to also consider donating it to the medical community or EMA “and put them in the hands of those that need them the most.”

Troy Ramsey, deputy director of Vigo County EMA, said the need for the face masks is critical. There is a shortage, and the donation will help first responders stay safe as the pandemic continues.

First responders deal with people who could be showing symptoms of COVID-19, and it’s important “for them to have proper personal protection equipment to protect themselves and anyone they may come in contact with after that,” Ramsey said.

In addition to the N95 masks, other shortage areas include gloves, goggles, hand sanitizer and gowns, he said.

He praised the district for the donation. “Having organizations step up and help us out and donate items — it’s amazing because these items are badly needed,” Ramsey said.

EMA will distribute the masks to firefighters, emergency medical services and law enforcement.

The recommended use for an N95 mask is eight hours.

Ramsey and Keith Holbert, EMA deputy director of operations, loaded the boxes of masks to be taken to EMA offices.

If anyone would like to donate N95 masks or other protective gear, contact EMA offices at vcema@vigosheriff.in.gov.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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