Denton police

Scott Butler, left, and Clint Webb are part of the Denton Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team. Denton first responders are still accepting donations of personal protective equipment to keep them safe while they try to keep residents safe.

Denton’s first responders have received donations of personal protective equipment to help keep them safe during the coronavirus pandemic — but they’re not out of the woods yet.

The state sent out more personal protective equipment last week, with an additional 3 million masks expected to be distributed by the end of the week, Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday.

First responders come into close contact with people daily, so maintaining social distancing isn’t always possible. That’s where personal protective equipment helps them stay safe.

“If we don’t have the personal protective equipment and we get sick, then we can’t take care of our citizens,” said David Boots, Denton Fire Department spokesman.

The department has had a lot of donations come in, from cleaning supplies to personal protective equipment, and they’re better off than they were two weeks ago, Boots said. However, he said the current supply will only last for a few weeks.

On top of equipment, Boots said the fire department has also acquired an ultraviolet cleaning unit to disinfect their personal protective equipment.

While this is handy to clean nondisposable equipment, it only prolongs the life of disposable equipment like N95 respirators. It’s not a “cure-all.” Boots said disinfecting them would help the fire department get a little bit more use out of each respirator.

N95 respirators should ideally be disposed of after each patient encounter, but when supply is short, such as during a pandemic, they can be used past the intended usage time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last week, the CDC recommended that people wear cloth face masks while going out to public places where social distancing measures can be difficult to maintain. The organization is recommending cloth face coverings for individuals so that surgical masks and N95 respirators can remain available for health care workers.

Boots said the fire department isn’t accepting homemade masks or 3D-printed face shields at this time.

Denton police are still patrolling and responding to calls, so they’ve also been wearing masks to protect themselves and the people they come into contact with.

“Each officer is assigned a mask and latex gloves,” Denton Police Department spokeswoman Allison Beckwith said.

Among their donations are hand sanitizer and handmade cloth masks, but they’re still accepting donations. Beckwith said they’re also making sure to keep in contact with the fire department in case there’s a greater need for equipment for them.

While staff at Medical City Denton are accepting donations of equipment, neither Medical City nor Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton is accepting homemade masks.

Medical City has a collection bin for small donations of personal protective equipment in the hospital’s Professional Building.

Medical City Denton spokeswoman Dana Long said the hospital will be collecting homemade masks for their community partners — the Denton Community Food Center and North Texas Food Bank — since they can’t use those in medical settings.

Brittany Barron, spokeswoman for Texas Health Resources North Texas, said the hospital system will soon have information available online for individuals who wish to donate.

ZAIRA PEREZ can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @zairalperez.

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