Michigan residents most vulnerable to COVID-19 will receive 4 million free masks, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced at a press conference Friday morning.
The masks will be distributed to low-income residents, senior citizens, schools and shelters, provided in association with Ford Motor Company and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Michigan needs to continue to ‘mask up’ to protect us all from COVID-19,” Whitmer said. “Vulnerable populations may have difficulties buying masks and our schools need face coverings to keep students, staff and community members safe.”
Certain agencies have already received masks. FEMA sent 1.5 million to the state, which were given to community action agencies across Michigan. Another 1.5 million masks from Ford and an additional 1 million face coverings from FEMA will be sent to Detroit, schools in low-income areas and certain COVID-19 testing sites, as well as other organizations serving vulnerable populations, including “minority residents who have been affected by the public health crisis as a result of racism,” according to a press release from Whitmer’s office.
Both the state and local governments across Michigan and in Washtenaw County have declared racism a public health crisis, noting the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on people of color and high-profile instances of police brutality.
The 4 million masks are in part the result of work done by Whitmer’s Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, which is chaired by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II.
“By delivering four million masks at no cost to Michiganders, we can provide a proven, lifesaving device to countless residents as they go back to work, school, and define (a) new way of living during this pandemic,” Gilchrist said.
Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, emphasized the importance of wearing a mask to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“Masks are proven to reduce a person’s chance of spreading COVID-19 by about 70 percent,” Gordon said. “There’s also growing evidence that masks can protect the wearer’s life, by reducing the severity of COVID if they get it. It’s critically important to make sure communities most impacted by COVID-19 have greater access to masks at no cost.”
Those interested in acquiring a free mask can locate distribution areas by calling the COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136.
Managing News Editor Sayali Amin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.