With nearly 2,000 protective N95 masks available, University of Wisconsin-Stout’s School of Art and Design faculty and staff knew they needed to get the potentially life-saving gear against COVID-19 in the hands of local first responders.
After a few phone calls, UW-Stout officials and the Dunn County Emergency Management Office arranged for the county to be a collection point to make the equipment available to county, city and rural medical personnel, law enforcement officers and firefighters.
“In this time of need, we are all in this together,” said Cathie Weissman, financial specialist senior and safety coordinator for the School of Art and Design. “Our medical staff, first responders, police and fire need to be protected so they are in a position to help everyone.
“Those who have these types of items need to help,” Weissman added. “The university and the greater Menomonie area work together on so many things that make our community great. It is important to provide support where and when we are able.”
On March 25, DCEM picked up 88 boxes, or 1,760 masks, from UW-Stout. Twelve boxes, or 240 masks, went to the university’s Student Health Services.
“We’ve been watching what has been unfolding around the globe, related to the coronavirus, and felt that while it is sad that the students are not on campus to utilize our facilities, materials and face-to-face instruction, we could actually find an even more important use for these masks in this current climate,” said School of Art and Design Director Dave Beck. “With so many of our employees and students being residents of Dunn County, we knew that there was no better place than right here – our home county – to provide support and aid.”
Following state policy, the university allowed the county to purchase the masks, which were acquired with taxpayer dollars and student fees, at what the SOAD paid its supplier.
“We see this as a win-win for everyone,” Beck said. “It provides the necessary equipment to those in need and also allows us to replenish the account with funds to purchase new masks for students’ use in future semesters.”
Dunn County Emergency Government Director Melissa Gilgenbach said the masks were important because some agencies were down to very few of them.
“It definitely has helped,” she said. “The masks will help provide the protection our emergency medical services, firefighters and volunteer first responders need.”
The School of Art and Design has more than 1,200 students taking various art and design classes each semester, Beck said. Nearly every one of those students needs an N95 mask multiple times a semester to protect them from exposure to particulates including wood, plaster, foam and clay.
“We take safety extremely seriously at UW-Stout, which is why we maintain such a large stockpile of these masks, as well as other personal safety equipment like gloves, goggles and earplugs,” Beck said.
N95 masks are 95% efficient filtering out contaminants like dust, mists and fumes.
UW-Stout’s School of Art and Design has six undergraduate programs and a Master of Fine Arts in design. It is the largest higher education art and design program in Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas.
Because of COVID-19, UW-Stout is offering classes through alternative delivery methods. For more information on how UW-Stout is responding to COVID-19, visit the website www.uwstout.edu/coronavirus.
N95 masks filter out contaminants and are used as protection from the coronavirus COVID-19.