Emergency responders at the very point of contact with potential novel coronavirus patients received a little help Tuesday with the donation of dozens of hand-sewn protective masks.

The gift will help Washington County/Johnson City Emergency Medical Services medics save their hard-to-come-by N95 masks for situations where they have contact with potential COVID 19 patients. EMS found out about the donation after several community groups contacted the Washington County Emergency Management Agency about how they could help first responders.

“With the PPE (personal protective equipment) shortage across the U.S., we’ve been working diligently to tell people about alternative items. We were approached by several groups — community groups, church groups, ladies groups — who contacted us,” about making the masks, said Evan Clyburn, assistant director of the agency. He then contacted EMS, which gladly took him up on the offer.

Because the masks are cloth, they can be washed and reused, said EMS Deputy Chief Mike Skowronski.

With the CDC’s recommendation for citizens to voluntarily wear a face mask when out in public, the timing was right for the donation, Clyburn said. He said the groups have also provided masks for other medical staff at area facilities.

Clyburn also said EMA had received calls from the public about donating other personal protective equipment to first responders. The outpouring was enough for EMA to schedule a drop-off donation center later this week.

“Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the downtown parking garage there will a donation center set up for anybody that wants to drop off PPE for emergency and first responders,” Clyburn said. The event is sponsored through the city, he said. “We’ve had a lot of phone calls from businesses that have this kind of stuff that wants to donate it to emergency providers.”

On Thursday and Friday the drop off will be set up from 12 to 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.