As Michigan works to reduce coronavirus infections and reduce the number of cases in the state, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked residents to continue wearing their masks, to support those on the front lines and to “stay smart and mask up” in an effort to ensure the current plateauing of cases remains and can decline in the months to come.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Whitmer said. “Everyone’s got to continue to do their part.”
Whitmer also announced a new partnership between the state, Ford Motor Co. and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide four million free masks to Michigan residents who are considered the most vulnerable to coronavirus.
Low-income residents, seniors, schools and homeless shelters will benefit from the MI Mask Aid partnership that is part of the Mask Up Michigan campaign, officials said during a live update from Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Lt. Garlin Gilchrist II.
“Michigan needs to continue to ‘mask up’ to protect us all from COVID-19,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Vulnerable populations may have difficulties buying masks and our schools need face coverings to keep students, staff and community members safe. I am thrilled that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Ford and FEMA are working together to help control the spread of the coronavirus.”
The project is in partnership with Gov. Whitmer’s Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, which Gilchrist chairs.
“The irony of this pandemic that requires physical distancing is that it reveals how connected we truly are—how much we rely on one another every day,” Lt. Governor Gilchrist II said in a statement. “I’m thankful for our partners at Ford, FEMA and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for coming together in a big way to ensure that our communities, particularly those hardest hit, have what they need to get through these tough times. 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 new way of living during this pandemic.”
The free masks include 1.5 million from FEMA that the state has already sent to organizations that include local Community Action Agencies serving low-income residents, MDHHS offices, Area Agencies on Aging, homeless shelters and Native American tribes.
Another 1 million face coverings from FEMA and 1.5 million from Ford will go to low-income schools, the City of Detroit, Federally Qualified Health Centers, some COVID-19 testing sites and to many of the organizations listed above to reach vulnerable populations – including minority residents who have been affected by the public health crisis as a result of racism.
“Masks are proven to reduce a person’s chance of spreading COVID-19 by about 70 percent. There’s also growing evidence that masks can protect the wearer’s life, by reducing the severity of COVID if they get it,” MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said in a statement. “It’s critically important to make sure communities most impacted by COVID-19 have greater access to masks at no cost. The MI Mask Aid initiative is a critical step in this effort.”
Ford’s involvement makes MI Mask Aid a public-private partnership that can provide even more free masks. Ford assembles more vehicles and employs more hourly workers in the U.S. than any other automaker.
“Manufacturing is the backbone of America and from World War II to fighting COVID-19, Ford has a rich history of stepping up in times of crisis to help Michigan and our country,” said Ford Motor Company president and CEO Jim Hackett said in a statement. “And today we continue in our efforts, with the State of Michigan and in coordination with the Task Force on Racial Disparities, by donating face masks to serve communities especially vulnerable to COVID-19. We also will continue to look for ways to address urgent needs of our communities by leveraging our partnerships through the Ford Motor Company Fund.”
Anyone interested in receiving a free mask can find a distribution location by calling the COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136 or looking up their local Community Action Agency online.
Information around the COVID-19 outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.