Masks, already hard to find, likely to become mandatory in Hillsborough

By Thursday, everyone in Hillsborough County could be ordered to wear face coverings in public. The Emergency Policy Group believe it offers another layer of protection against the pervasive COVID-19 coronavirus.

Getting your hands on a mask, though, is not as easy as running to the store. The reality is, stores are completely sold out. And emergency officials say forget about ordering them online; leave those for the medical professionals who really need them.

Instead, they are strongly encouraging people to make your own at home.

The CDC website, the U.S. Surgeon General, and others have tutorials to show the public how to make a face covering with items you already have at home, like a scarf, a bandana, or even a regular T-shirt.

Because of the mask shortage all over the county, public donations are vital. At the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office, nearly a dozens bags were donated by the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay -- everything from masks, to gloves, even hand sanitizers. 

State Attorney Andrew Warren says no mask will go to waste. He says his prosecutors will be wearing them at the courthouse, 

“It’s such a great gesture,’ he offered. “They’re trying to keep us safe while we’re trying to keep the community safe.”

And donations keep pouring in at area hospitals and law enforcement agencies. For weeks now, volunteers like Lisa Polunin and her two girlfriends have donated 550 homemade masks, and those on the front line are thankful and showing off the goods on social media.

On a Facebook tutorial, Lisa even shows you how to make your own at home. 

RELATED: Florida Surgeon General says social distancing, wearing face masks might be the new normal

“I know they’re not going be taken care of and I wanted to help out as much as I possibly could. To give is the best reward it makes me happy,” she explained.

Hillsborough’s EPG voted to enact a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew yesterday. They are expected to vote on a face-covering order on Thursday. 

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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