As the region deals with a surge of coronavirus infections, King County and the King County Library System (KCLS) are teaming up to get cloth and disposable face coverings and hand sanitizer in the hands of residents by partnering with close to 650 community and faith-based organizations. Starting this week, supplies will be distributed to these organizations at eight KCLS branches located across the county.
On July 7, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a directive, “Mask Up Washington,” that requires people to wear face coverings in most public settings. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends face coverings and masks as an effective way to help control droplet spread and prevent COVID-19.
“While it’s easy to feel helpless in the face of this pandemic, everyone in King County can help pave the road to recovery by wearing face coverings and following public health guidelines,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Face coverings are a crucial element in controlling COVID-19, along with frequent hand washing, avoiding gatherings, maintaining physical distance around other people, and staying home when sick.”
“From the outset, KCLS has worked closely with the Pandemic Community Advisory Group to develop a community-wide response to COVID-19. We are proud to be doing our part to slow the spread of this disease by helping to distribute life-saving masks and hand sanitizer throughout the region,” said KCLS Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum.
King County has purchased five million reusable cloth face coverings, enough to provide two to each resident of the county, and another 20 million disposable masks for temporary use. Until now, the county has relied on businesses and city partners to get face coverings into people’s hands. Through the partnership with KCLS, which has 50 libraries located throughout the county, community and faith-based organizations serving the more vulnerable will be able to get face coverings and sanitizer at no cost. Once libraries are able to open to the public again, KCLS will be distributing these supplies to individuals in library buildings as well.
“It is always important to ensure community organizations that are led by and serving the most impacted communities can provide these critical supplies to those who need them most,” said Sharonne Navas, co-founder and executive director of the Equity in Education Coalition, which houses the Partners in Change program. “Partners in Change was created by POC-led organizations to ensure our communities are represented and centered in COVID-19 response efforts, and we are glad to partner with King County to get masks and sanitizers to our communities.”
“Faith communities play a key role in the lives of so many King County communities,” added Michael Ramos, executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. “The Church Council is glad to partner with King County to get masks and sanitizers out to residents who need them most. COVID-19 is a continued challenge, and we know that faith communities are making a difference in helping people stay healthy and safe.”
“Working with Public Health – Seattle & King County’s Equity Response team, this program will help distribute millions of masks and tens of thousands of bottles of sanitizer to community and faith-based organizations working with those most impacted by COVID-19. King County is committed to embedding equity into our COVID-19 response efforts, and we thank the community partners who have stepped-up to be trusted messengers in getting these critical supplies out to our communities,” said Matias Valenzuela, who directs Community Mitigation and Recovery for Public Health – Seattle & King County.
King County also continues to distribute “Safe Start” kits to chambers of commerce and small businesses. This program, a partnership with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, OneRedmond, and Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce, provides cloth face coverings, disposable masks, and hand sanitizer to businesses in King County to help them keep employees and patrons healthy and safe. Nearly one million cloth masks, more than three million disposable masks, and around 35,000 bottles of sanitizer will go to small businesses and chambers as part of this effort. Distribution events are planned through July 24.
To date, more than 12,244 King County residents have been infected with coronavirus. While most have recovered, more than 600 have died from the disease. Because there is still no treatment or vaccine, public health experts recommend face coverings as one strategy to reduce viral spread. For more information about King County’s outbreak response, visit kingcounty.gov/COVID. To learn more about the plan for distribution of face coverings, visit kingcounty.gov/maskdistribution.