Kane County may buy $5 million worth of masks, gloves and sanitizer for residents
Kane County residents soon may receive free masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, if officials approve a $5 million plan to buy the personal protective equipment.
The initiative would be the first expense approved by the county board out of the $92.9 million the county received in federal COVID-19 response money. It also may be the easiest use of the money for the board to agree on.
A task force appointed by county board Chairman Chris Lauzen developed the recommendation in cooperation with the Kane County Public Health Department. The task force, which is focused on obtaining the funds and overseeing the money, voted Wednesday to forward the plan to the board's executive committee for a vote next month.
The masks, gloves and sanitizer would be made available to county residents for free. Exactly when the kits would become available and how they will be distributed has not yet been determined. County officials have a multipurpose goal. They see the personal protective equipment as preventing the rapid spread of COVID-19 and helping push Kane County through Gov. J.B. Pritzker's recovery phases as quick as possible.
Barb Jeffers, the executive director of the Kane County Public Health Department, said that as the weather gets nicer and more businesses and entertainment options reopen, people will go out in public without masks if they can't obtain them on their own.
"We have an obligation and a responsibility to assist in their protection," Jeffers said. "We want to get back to doing the things we love, but if we don't stop the spread of the virus, we cannot do that. We will have more infections and, unfortunately, more and more fatalities."
Jeffers will ask county board members to help develop a distribution plan that gets the PPE kits to the constituents who need them the most.
Whether or not large numbers of county residents will use the masks and gloves remains to be seen. Three recent public calls between Lauzen and members of the community showed a high amount of skepticism that masks are necessary.
Members of the task force, including Lauzen, all agreed the $5 million purchase is within the guidelines for proper use of the funds as outlined by the U.S. Treasury Department. Future purchases may see less agreement.
Already on Wednesday, there was disagreement between members of the task force and county board members about whether any of the $92.9 million should be used to help other units of local government within the county. Lauzen and Auditor Terry Hunt said municipalities and schools should go straight to the state to ask for help first. But legislation awaiting Pritzker's signature suggests local governments should get funds through their local counties.
Lauzen said he doesn't see how the legislation, even if Pritzker signs it, could override the Treasury Department's guidelines.