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Calling on tattoo shops, salons for help: Bell Ambulance needs masks, other protective supplies

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Like many first responders across the country, paramedics from a local ambulance service say they need medical supplies to get them through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bell Ambulance is now calling on businesses that are currently closed for help. On Friday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers ordered tattoo shops, nail and hair salons, spas, tanning salons and massage parlors to close down by 5 p.m.

"(Many of them) have to wear PPE during their regular jobs," said Elisabeth Handgraaf, a paramedic supervisor with Bell Ambulance. "And so if they're not using it, we're hoping that they would be willing to work something out that we could use it then."

They're asking for surgical masks, N95 masks, surgical gowns, googles and protective eyewear.

"We're OK (on supplies) for right now, but if this keeps trending the way that it's been trending not only us just everyone's going to be short on them. They already are," she said.

Some businesses are already answering Bell Ambulance's call.

"We tattoo their guys. They're also our neighbors a half block down, so we gave them what we had and we encouraged others to do the same," said Greg Kirst, owner of Horseshoe Tattoo in Bayview.

Kirst said it wasn't much, just a few boxes of surgical masks, but the real story is about neighbors helping neighbors.

"Obviously, they're the ones on the front-line. Everyone is hoarding and panic shopping, and the people that need them aren't getting them," he said.

As his tattoo shop is closed for the foreseeable future, he's worried not for himself but for his employees.

"A couple of my guys have kids. This is what they pay them with. So right now I'm trying to figure out how can I get them money to be able to live for the next few weeks," Kirst said.

And first responders worry that without the supplies they need, they could be exposed and carry that to others.

"What am I bringing home? What have I been exposed to that now I'm going to get my husband sick?" Handgraaf said.

Any businesses that have supplies and would like to donate or even sell them for a reasonable price are asked to call Bell Ambulance's main phone number at (414) 264-2355.

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