Area emergency management continue to put out feelers in search of medical supplies to combat the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory illness.

Chance Kness, director of Clinton County’s Emergency Management, said both surgical masks and N95 masks are of high priority.

“We have some limited supplies of some things,” Kness said. “It’s not what would be a comfortable number. We are asking for donations of those kinds of supplies.”

Kness’ counterpart in Jackson County, Lyn Medinger, echoed that sentiment and said he was submitting a mask order to the state’s emergency operations center. He said the state is limiting how many masks can be ordered at a time to combat the nationwide shortage.

“(The order) I’m putting together is only for 5-7 days,” he said. “They don’t want people hoarding (masks). They ask for (the order) to be what you use on a weekly basis.”

“We’ll go through a large number of the masks in a short amount of time,” Kness said. “Some area healthcare organizations have had difficulty with their normal supply chain. Even though we aren’t dealing with positive (COVID-19) cases we are dealing with shortage already.”

Area businesses and individuals heeded the EMA’s call for donations.

Maquoketa’s Ragababe, which typically manufactures cloth diapers, completely changed its output and is now manufacturing reusable masks. Kness said Expander America Inc. is donating some masks that are “equivalent to surgical masks.” A handful of individuals have posted sewing plans for masks that can be created from home while practicing social distancing.

Handmade masks can be used as a last line of defense for health care workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

“Homemade masks are not considered PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), since their capability to protect HCP is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option,” the CDC said.

Medinger said guidelines from the CDC will be sent soon that will detail mask specifications. 

In addition to masks, Medinger has ordered gowns that add a level of protection against droplets from the mouth, eyes and nose; doctors believe those droplets spread the virus. Medinger is also working with Mississippi River Distilling Company in LeClaire to produce hand sanitizer.

“They changed their operation to make hand sanitizer,” Medinger said.

Jackson and Clinton county emergency management agencies are the point organizations for supplies. Anyone who wishes to send donations of any kind should contact their respective county’s EMA office.

“Our purpose is to be a clearing house for resources,” Kness said. “We are the single point of contact for Clinton County for requesting resources. Our task is to try to maximize efficiency and keep a good handle on what we have and don’t have and try to create creative ways to fill those.”

Anyone with questions or donations can contact Clinton County EMA at (563) 242-5712 or Jackson County EMA at (563) 542-3911.