Sandy Pechacek, Waco-McLennan County Office of Emergency Management donations coordinator, picks up donated face coverings outside the local Department of Public Safety building Tuesday. The local EOC is seeking face covering donations to help supply essential workers with adequate protection against the spread of COVID-19.

Officials with the Waco-McLennan County Office of Emergency Management are seeking cloth face masks to share with essential workers at correctional facilities, at-risk juvenile housing facilities, nursing homes and other locations where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Donations coordinator Sandy Pechacek said requests for more than 2,000 cloth masks have flooded into the Emergency Operations Center in recent days as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain local resources.

“You can wash cloth face masks and decontaminate them with soap and water to slow the possible spread in the public and hopefully help the community get rid of this disease,” Pechacek said.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention has recommended wearing cloth face coverings in public settings to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Pechacek picked up about 100 donated face masks Tuesday from a volunteer at the Texas Department of Public Safety building. While the county and local cities are under shelter-in-place orders, she said she is encouraging donations from the public such as community sewing groups throughout McLennan County to make and donate cloth coverings.

“Because supplies are in such short resources right now, other medical personnel, first responders, police departments, jails and folks like that have a job where they interact with the public are in need of items like face masks,” Pechacek said.

Last month, JOANN, the crafting and sewing supply business in Central Texas Marketplace, announced it was opening its stores’ classrooms to anyone who wants to help make masks, gowns and other essential medical items for donations to the medical community.

Donations of other personnel protective equipment, such as medical gowns and shoe and hair coverings, also are being sought. Pechacek said she hopes businesses that may have those types of items that are not in use would consider donating to the EOC.

CDC-approved instructions on how to make face coverings can be found at covidwaco.com. Donation dropoffs can be coordinated by clicking the “donate” button on the website. Donation coordinators can also be reached at 750-5911.

Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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