In the coming weeks, the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED) will work with 25 community partners to distribute 10,000 free masks to lower-income residents.
The Washtenaw Free Mask Program is part of the state of Michigan's larger response to COVID-19. Peter Lindeman, a communications and policy specialist at OCED, explains that the state is giving away 4 million masks through various community action agencies.
"The OCED really thought about how we could most effectively help the people who need it most," Lindeman says. "We decided that the best way to get our allotted 10,000 masks to those people is to not require them to come to us."
Instead, residents can check out the OCED website for a summary of distribution sites and times. Some organizations, such as Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels, will deliver masks directly to their clients. Others, such as Avalon Housing, will make masks available for pickup around the clock at their tenant entrance.
Those who need a mask are encouraged to confirm in advance that their local distribution site doesn't require an appointment for pickup. And while most organizations are distributing the masks on an individual basis, arrangements can be made if someone needs to pick up several.
Lindeman stresses the urgency of getting residents protected now that winter is approaching, bringing more indoor gatherings with it.
"For the last few months we've had the luxury of being able to meet friends and family outside, but we know that indoor events are going to become more prevalent," he says. "We want to make sure that everyone can stay safe throughout the winter months as those indoor events and gatherings become more frequent."
All the masks available through the program are plain white, cloth, and are machine-washable up to 15 times without losing effectiveness. However, Lindeman says the most important thing about the masks is that they're available for anyone who needs them.
"We are making sure that everyone, no matter income and no matter access to resources, is able to be safe and healthy this winter," he says.
For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo courtesy of the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Development.