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TMH health care works with donated masks. Image via Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.

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Hillsborough County seeks homemade mask donations ahead of expected mask mandate

Medical grade supplies are also being sought.

Hillsborough County is accepting donations of homemade masks to help residents prepare for an order expected Thursday requiring all residents to wear a face covering when out in public.

Residents and visitors had already been donating personal protective equipment in short supply like N95 masks and gowns to protect health care workers from contracting COVID-19 while they are on the frontlines of the battle.

But in an effort to ensure those supplies are available for frontline workers, Hillsborough County is encouraging those who are able to donate homemade masks for public use.

Supplies can be dropped off at the former Sears Automotive shop at WestShore Plaza in Tampa.  Volunteers are at the site from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises the use of face coverings to slow the spread of the virus, in addition to maintaining six-foot social distancing. Simple cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost. Hillsborough County’s Official YouTube Channel has a video about how to make a simple cloth face mask.

Officials are still requesting medical schools, dental clinics, elective surgery centers, private vendors, residents, and others to donate medical grade impervious gowns, face shields, surgical masks, N95 masks, Tyvek suits, exam gloves and homemade masks for non-clinical staff and patients.

Other than for non-medical use, supplies must be unused. The county is in need of all sizes.

The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group met Monday and discussed a mandatory face covering order.

They decided to wait until Thursday to vote on the order and are using the week to educate residents about the expected requirement. While it’s anticipated the order will be approved, it is still subject to a vote by the eight-member group.

The county also put into place a curfew from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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