MADISON – Various Wisconsin state agencies and trade organizations have started distributing more than 2 million personal protective equipment (PPE) items.

To head off the spread of COVID-19, officials plan to distribute the equipment to schools, food processors, and schools across the state as part of public-private partnerships to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Gov Tony Evers’ office announced on Tuesday.

Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) will begin shipping more than 2 million cloth face masks and more than 4,200 infrared thermometers to K-12 public, charter, and private schools throughout the state.

“The Department of Health Services and the Department of Public Instruction have been working diligently to make plans for school safely reopened this fall,” Evers said in a press conference held Tuesday. “And today we have announced that the Wisconsin emergency management is working to shift more than 4,200 infrared thermometers your K to 12 schools across the state.”

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) also plan to facilitate the delivery of approximately 60,000 masks to local food processors and businesses.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency supplied the cloth masks and infrared thermometers at no cost to the state.

“Whether it’s a school, cheese plant, or restaurant, we are doing everything we can to ensure that everyone has access to the essential resources and PPE they need to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Evers said in a news release. “As our economy continues to reopen, we know businesses want to protect their customers and workers, and schools across our state are preparing to reopen safely for our kids, educators, and staff, so these efforts now are critically important to ensure they have the resources and supplies they need to keep folks safe.”

The governor’s office reported that public and private school administrators were surveyed in mid-June to determine their interest in an allotment based on existing enrollment information. At least 398 public school districts, 23 charter schools, and 617 private schools indicated they would like to receive supplies, with more requests expected. The shipments are intended to supplement additional efforts districts may choose to undertake to purchase masks and other PPE.

In addition to the supplies, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the Department of Health Services (DHS) collaborated on guidance for schools related to cloth masks and thermometers. This guidance was distributed to schools earlier this month and is available on the DPI website.

Of the approximately 60,000 masks for which the DATCP is facilitating distribution, 22,500 masks are for restaurants through the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, 22,500 masks for small grocers through the Wisconsin Grocers Association, 8,000 masks for small food processors through the Midwest Food Products Association, 2,500 masks for small cheese plants through the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, 2,000 masks for small meat processors, and 2,000 masks for the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association for public-facing workers.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.