RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Riverside County officials announced Friday that 10 million masks will be distributed countywide, with the help of nonprofit organizations, as part of an accelerated containment strategy to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The 30-day giveaway is intended to heighten awareness about the importance of precautionary steps that can help prevent viral transmission, according to county Department of Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari.
“It is our priority to protect the health of Riverside County residents,” she said during a briefing outside the County Administrative Center in downtown Riverside. “We need to stop the spread of COVID-19 so we can reopen all segments of the local economy, which has been seriously impacted.”
In addition to using masks at appropriate times, frequent handwashing and social distancing are paramount, according to Saruwatari.
Officials noted that government regulations implemented since the coronavirus emergency began in March had gravely impacted multiple economic sectors, most prominently leisure and hospitality, professional business services, retail and education. The county’s unemployment rate is just under 15%, exceeding losses documented during the Great Recession.
“Fighting the virus and economic recovery are not mutually exclusive,” county Economic Recovery Task Force Chairman Lou Monville said. “I know some of you have COVID fatigue. I feel it. This is a dramatic and daily struggle for us all. Without safe health practices, there will be no economic recovery. We must exercise simple practices.”
The 10 million masks acquired by the county thanks to federal aid will be made available, for free, at all county virus screening sites, according to Saruwatari.
The county has additionally partnered with organizations, including the Corona-Norco United Way, to distribute the face coverings, especially in underserved communities, according to the nonprofit’s CEO, Alia Rodriguez.
“Folks who don’t have funding may not be able to get a mask,” Rodriguez said. “They will receive masks, and we will use our contacts to get masks into the hands of people who need them the most.”
She said boxes of face shields will be left with a variety of vendors and small businesses.
The distribution drive is part of a monthlong push to reduce coronavirus infections, which in the last six weeks have steadily risen.
Additional containment measures will be announced in the coming days, officials said.