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The City Journals

Taylorsville City distributing thousands of face masks, gallons of sanitizer, other supplies

Oct 05, 2020 03:12PM ● By Carl Fauver

With remodeling underway where his office used to be, Taylorsville Emergency Response Coordinator Donnie Gasu is now working out of his equipment storage closet, in the basement of city hall. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

More than half a year into the coronavirus pandemic, Taylorsville Emergency Response Coordinator Donnie Gasu remains as busy as ever, connecting people and groups in need of personal protective equipment with their required supplies.

But you’ll have to forgive Gasu if he’s feeling a bit like Rodney Dangerfield these days (assuming he’s old enough to know who that is), not getting the respect he deserves. Thanks to extensive remodeling underway on the second floor of city hall, he’s now working out of his supply closet in the building’s basement.

“They expect the work to be done upstairs by Thanksgiving,” he said. “It’s not too bad down here.”

Gasu has been on the job since January 2018, and it goes without saying that the last six months have been his most challenging. Since mid-March, his one-person department has distributed about 8,000 facemasks, more than 50 gallons of hand sanitizer and various other items such as gloves, gowns and thermometers.

“As organizations make requests for PPE, I get the supplies from Salt Lake County,” he said. “They have always been able to provide what I need, but sometimes there have been delays. The city is not charged for any of it, because it’s provided through the CARES Act.”

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act is the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill signed into law by President Donald Trump soon after the pandemic began last spring. The direct government payments most people received months ago were funded through the act, as were the Payroll Protection Program loans people have heard so much about. The legislation was the largest economic stimulus package in U.S. history.

Another portion of the CARES Act was $340 billion set aside for state and local governments. That portion of the massive act is funding that city hall second floor remodel—the work that relegated Gasu to the basement. And that’s also the slice of the stimulus pie paying for the PPE he is doling out.

“I have been working through the city’s Cultural Diversity Committee to help identify groups in the city that need masks,” Gasu said. “We’ve given about 6,000 masks to various ethnic groups. The remaining 2,000 masks have gone to the police department, senior housing facilities, water district employees and visitors to our city offices.”

Twice a week, Gasu meets (via Zoom) with his counterparts from throughout the Salt Lake Valley.

“The emergency management meetings include representatives from each city in Salt Lake County, along with people from Rocky Mountain Power and other groups,” he said. “At the start of the pandemic, we were meeting daily. Now it’s every Tuesday and Thursday. We discuss PPE distribution and other issues.”

At the moment, Gasu said one of the critical things they are addressing is how and where a coronavirus vaccine will be distributed throughout the county, once it becomes available.

Gasu is also an active member of Taylorsville City’s Public Safety Committee, where he’s earned the respect of the committee’s government liaison, Taylorsville City Councilman Dan Armstrong.

“Donnie is very conscientious and knows what he is doing,” Armstrong said. “In the end, most of the responsibility for coronavirus response is up to each of us, as individuals. We have to do all we can to keep ourselves safe. But, for what we can do—given our resources—I think the city has done a good job responding to the crisis. Donnie is leading in that effort.”

Gasu said, overall, Taylorsville is doing better than some nearby communities in holding coronavirus at bay.

“We have been doing better than some of our neighboring cities like West Jordan and West Valley,” he said. “We have an older demographic, and more of those people have been good about staying at home. It’s a busy time for emergency management, but things are improving.”