As local businesses prepare to reopen — while still taking precautions — amid ongoing concern about the novel coronavirus, area organizations are working to provide facemasks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking Tuesday at a Crawford County Commission work session on plans for a new county policy to implement less restrictive coronavirus rules that will allow businesses to reopen, Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce President Blake Benson announced that U.S. Awards and Miller’s Professional Imaging have been producing facemasks and Miller’s will be donating 5,000 of them to local businesses.

“We’ll take care of the distribution,” Benson said. “We’ll begin that next week.”

Later Tuesday, Benson issued a press release with additional information on the effort to produce and distribute the facemasks.

“U.S. Awards initially began producing facemasks as a donation to Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg, but quickly realized the need for other businesses to have them as well,” according to the release. “At the same time Miller’s was in the market for masks for their employees. Soon the two companies began discussions on how best to provide the facemasks on a larger scale to help other local businesses facing the challenge of re-opening as safely as possible.”

The Pittsburg community “has a rich history of local businesses supporting one another and this is one more great example,” Benson said in the release.

Todd Coleman, President and Chief Operating Officer at Miller’s also discussed the company’s reasons for wanting to donate facemasks.

“Local businesses have a special place in our hearts at Miller’s,” Coleman said in the release. “Miller’s got its start as a one-man photo studio in Pittsburg in 1939 and we’ve never lost that appreciation for the role that local businesses play in our community. Any role we can play in helping businesses re-open safely, we want to do.”

County Health Officer Rebecca Adamson said at Tuesday’s meeting that it was important to regularly wash the masks and not share them among multiple people. She pointed out that people can make their own masks, and there are instructions on how to do so on the county health department’s Facebook page.

Following the Tuesday work session, during the regularly scheduled county commission meeting, Sheriff Danny Smith discussed another effort to distribute facemasks, noting that County Emergency Manager Rusty Akins recently received a shipment of facemasks, which were then distributed to all of the county’s public storm shelters.

“We don’t want anybody not to go take, you know, shelter, worrying about the COVID-19 stuff,” Smith said.

“I think we’re as prepared as we can be for something like that, in terms of throwing a pandemic in with a tornado or severe weather,” he added.

“Well hopefully we’re lucky on the tornado side of it,” County Commission Chairman Bruce Blair said.