Local health care providers and emergency workers are facing a shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE—such as surgical masks and gloves as well as other supplies—as the coronavirus pandemic hits close to home.

In response to what has been deemed a critical need for these supplies, Round Rock ISD donated approximately 6,500 surgical masks and 7,000 pairs of gloves to the Williamson County Emergency Operations Center on March 26.

“When you look at what we’re dealing with right now, the situation is unprecedented,” said Jeffrey Yarbrough, Round Rock ISD’s director of safety and security. “But so is the response. People are coming out of the woodworks to provide resources that we need.”

Yarbrough is serving as a liaison between the Williamson County emergency management team and area school districts and institutions of higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said RRISD is one of several Williamson County school districts that have stepped up to offer supplies to first responders in this crisis.

Granger ISD has provided temporal thermometers; Hutto, Georgetown and Jarrell ISDs have donated gloves, masks, gowns and PPE kits, he said. To date, these local school districts have provided more than 10,000 gloves and over 10,000 masks to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“We understand the gravity of the situation that we’re dealing with,” Yarbrough said. “That’s why there are so many people giving so much of themselves to help others. I am proud of the fact that we’re continuing to come together to recognize where there’s a need and meeting them with whatever resources we have. I’m so thankful that school districts countywide are able to do their part to mitigate this pandemic and help those who are in need.”

Elaine Douville, RRISD's director of health services, said when she heard about the county’s need for masks and gloves, she tasked her school nurses with taking inventory of their supply. Then, she said she assessed what the district could provide to the county to help with these efforts.

“This is one way RRISD health services nurses can help out our community,” Douville said. “We’re not on the front lines right now, but we’re still trying to do our part and help out those that are on the front lines in their roles as nurses.”

Douville, a registered nurse, said she did not donate the district’s entire supply of masks and gloves. Rather, she said she calculated an adequate supply for the remainder of the semester, should classes resume in April.

RRISD officials announced March 26 that campus closures would extend until at least April 13 with the possibility of closures remaining in place through the end of the school year.

“We know COVID-19 is not going away in 15 days,” Douville said. “At this time, I have to act under the possibility that we could be going back to school this semester and to ensure that my staff has the proper equipment they need to do so.”

The federal government will reimburse the district for the supplies donated, Douville said, so parents need not worry about the health services restocking masks and gloves beyond the 2019-20 school year.

With many Central Texas districts shuttered until mid-April, Douville encouraged other area schools to take inventory of their own supplies and determine if they might be able to make a donation.

“Consider reaching out to your local health department or the emergency operation center in the county that you’re located in and see if you might be able to do the same,” Douville said. ”Whatever you feel you can safely give would be appreciated. Together as a community, hopefully we can all make a difference locally. Every little bit helps.”