RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmonders can pick up free face masks at nearly 50 locations around the city, Mayor Levar Stoney announced during a news conference Friday morning.
“Wearing a mask is the easiest way to show love and respect for your neighbor,” Stoney said. “Masks are scientifically proven to help stop the spread, so we’re making sure everyone has access to them, regardless of the money in their pocket or zip code they live in.”
The free disposable surgical masks are available at Richmond Public Library Branches, Parks and Recreation Community Centers and Richmond City Health District Resource Centers.
Seventeen of those locations are located on the city's Southside, Mayor Stoney said.
"This program has been designed to maximize accessibility to ensure there’s no reason to not wear a mask. We know it’s a mandate," he explained.
Residents will be given two masks per member of their family or household, but are "strongly suggested" to call the location to make sure they have masks in stock, officials said.
Folks without internet access can call 311 and an agent will direct them to the nearest pickup spot.
You will be not required to provide a proof of residency to pick up a mask.
Additionally, institutions can request masks to distribute under this new program.
"The institutional request is designed to allow eligible groups to order packs of 50 masks for distribution to their clients, members or general public," city officials said. "Eligible groups include shared housing facilities, faith-based organizations, recreational and special interest groups and volunteer or charitable groups and group homes for persons with disabilities."
The fire department is offering delivery and pickup for those groups, officials said.
"This program is designed to grow," officials said. "The public-facing map will be updated as more organizations around the city volunteer to serve as pickup locations."
Richmond Fire Chief Melvin Carter said the city purchases 180,000 masks that costs about $250,000, which will be covered by the CARES Act.
More than 3,300 Richmonders have tested positive for the coronavirus. Fourty-one have died, according to city data.
Stoney also addressed concerns he said he's received from residents about the return of college students, like a Virginia Commonwealth University.
"I think you’ll see is some transparency from VCU of how residents can keep track of what’s going on campus with those students who may be infected with the virus," he said.
Organizations that would like to serve as a mask pickup location can learn more here.
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid non-essential travel.