Photo by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT
Tuesday, May 19, 2020 by Jimmy Maas

Austin construction workers to receive thousands of donated masks

Thousands of masks are on their way to construction workers in the Austin area.

The 100,000 masks were donated Monday by the Austin Emergency Supply Foundation, a new nonprofit composed of business leaders with specific medical supply and logistics expertise.

“Coronavirus has provided just an exponential amount of new variables that everyone is having to deal with,” Jay Sauceda, a member of the foundation, said during a news conference with City Council members and others at the Mexican Consulate.

“If these masks that we can provide are one less variable that people have to think about as they go through their daily lives, then we’re really happy with our participation in this,” he said.

The masks will be distributed by the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, the local carpenters union and the Hispanic Contractors Association.

Construction workers have struggled to find protective equipment due to a spike in demand.

“Like all essential industries, it became an issue for us, as well,” Frank Fuentes, chairman of the Hispanic Contractors Association, said. “So this is a great shot in the arm, if you will.”

Fuentes is concerned about criticism leveled at his members and the construction industry through the crisis.

“It’s a very visible industry, so we’ve become targets,” he said. “In a pandemic, people tend to panic and blame their neighbor.”

He said his organization is working to educate members and their employees on how to keep the virus from coming home with them, through video tips on disinfecting work uniforms and gear.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the mask donation is just one example of people stepping up to help out the community. Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Mayor Steve Adler said the donation was another example of people stepping forward to try to help the community.

“Jonathan Coon and Mr. Sauceda looked at construction sites and saw there were people getting sick and there were some people that didn’t have masks, so they stepped into that place,” he said.

Coon helped organize the Austin Emergency Supply Foundation. Since its creation just weeks ago, the foundation has donated more than 400,000 masks to the city’s first responders and essential workers.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.

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