AKRON, Ohio — The Summit County Emergency Management Agency is joining area first responders in making an urgent plea for personal protective equipment donations, including N95 masks to protect police officers, firefighters and healthcare workers from the coronavirus.
"This is not an overreaction. It's absolutely time to take action," said Green Fire Chief Jeff Funai. "We're concerned. Do we have enough? That's the big question. Do we have enough PPE? That is just an impossible question to answer because we don't know how bad it's going to be."
Summit County EMA Director Tom Smoot is asking local doctors, dentists, veterinarians, construction companies and others to donate PPE by calling the Summit County Public Health COVID-19 Call Line at 330-926-5795. In addition to masks, the EMA is accepting swabs, gloves, goggles and medical gowns.
Those willing to help out will be given instructions on where to drop off the equipment, but the county is not divulging where any stockpile will be stored.
"We want to be pretty careful about how we collect these and we want to make sure safety and security applies there-- that they are stored in a safe manner," Smoot said.
The donated equipment would be given to firefighters, police officers, hospitals and other healthcare workers as needed.
On Wednesday, Governor Mike DeWine said keeping healthcare workers and first responders healthy is "absolutely essential" during the pandemic.
A police officer in Lorain and a firefighter in Columbus have tested positive for the highly contagious coronavirus.
Health officials have documented 88 cases of the virus as of Wednesday afternoon. Four of the cases are from Summit County. There haven't been any Ohio deaths related to COVID-19.
Funai said different fire departments in Summit County have varying amounts of personal protective equipment on hand. He said even though most departments likely have a decent supply, the amount could dwindle fast depending on the spread of the virus.
He referenced the serious situation in Italy while stressing the importance of having a surplus for those trained to help sick patients.
"We need the pile of N95 masks to be with the caregivers so that they can be there to do their job to help people in their time of need."
Stark County Emergency Management Agency is also in need of PPE.
Beginning to March 19, those willing to donate unused PPE for Stark County’s response to COVID-19 should call the Stark County EMA at 330.451.3900,
They are accepting donations Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Cuyahoga County is asking for items to be brought to a collection point at the Cuyahoga County Public Works Garage at 2501 Harvard Avenue.
They will be open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. starting Thursday.