A City Plan to Make Masks Available to Every Resident

The masks are intended for use in public spaces where social distancing can be difficult.

The masks are intended for use in public spaces where social distancing can be difficult. Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

The city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, partnered with a local manufacturer to make and distribute reusable masks, designed by a local doctor.

The city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has partnered with a nearby sock manufacturer to make and distribute masks throughout the community in an effort to halt the spread of Covid-19.

The announcement of the “Mask the City” initiative came with a directive from city leaders for residents to continue social distancing for an additional 40 days, through the end of May.

“The purpose of Mask the City is to provide everyone in Winston-Salem access to a mask and urge them to wear it as well as to continue social distancing for 40 days, from April 22 through May 31,” Mayor Allen Joines said Tuesday at a press conference. “I am extremely proud of the Mask the City effort because I believe it will bring our community together for a common cause that will benefit us all.”

The reusable, washable masks—dubbed the Nightingale WS Protective Mask—were designed locally by Dr. William Satterwhite, the chief wellness officer at Wake Forest Baptist Health, a medical center and Winston-Salem’s largest employer. They are being produced by Renfro Corporation, a sock and legwear manufacturer, which has the capacity to make roughly 900,000 masks per week as the closure of retail businesses right now means there is less demand for the company's traditional products.

The masks are not medical-grade, but comply with the federal government’s recommendation that people wear cloth face coverings in public places, like grocery stores, where social distancing may be difficult. The Nightingale mask is made of breathable fabric and designed to fit snugly along the sides of the face using adjustable straps, with enlarged “pockets” of fabric around the nose and mouth to provide adequate room for breathing.

The city received its first shipment of 25,000 masks on Monday and is expecting a total of 300,000 in the coming weeks, Joines said. The city, along with a number of businesses, nonprofit organizations, are purchasing the masks to distribute to employees, and Joines said he expects around 60,000 to be handed out for free to low-income people and other at-risk residents through community and faith-based organizations. About 250,000 people live in Winston-Salem, according to census data.

Masks will also be available for residents to purchase for $2.50 at certain grocery stores.

Widespread use of face coverings, combined with social distancing, should help control the spread of the virus, Joines said, particularly at a time that city leaders are beginning to discuss how and when to relax guidelines that have shuttered businesses and halted church services.

“As we hope to begin incrementally relaxing some of the restrictions on our community, this will help,” he said.

As of Tuesday, there were 131 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Forsyth County, with five deaths.

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Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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