Masks for Communities
Today, those at highest risk of being impacted by COVID because of mask mandate removals are also those with the least means to buy high quality high filtration masks for themselves and their families. Masks for Communities is a partnership between the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and Project N95 to distribute high-filtration masks for free to people who cannot afford them to help limit the spread of COVID.
Why high filtration?
As large numbers of Americans remove their masks, public spaces become less safe overall. The added layer of protection due to universal masking is no longer available. One way masking can help protect those who are vulnerable to serious COVID, but with fewer people wearing masks in indoor settings, those who continue wearing masks to protect themselves, including those who are immunocompromised, unvaccinated - including children under 5, and others with heightened risk of complications from COVID, now need to use the highest quality/filtration available.
Social epidemiologists have long known that disease distribution is patterned by disadvantage, and COVID data have documented that the poorest Americans are more likely to become ill and die from COVID. This is both because of heightened exposure risk – for example the poorest Americans are more likely to be working in person and in crowded conditions or living in multigenerational households, and because of higher risk of poor outcomes once infected, since the poorest Americans are also more likely to have multiple comorbidities due to structural factors.
Why is providing free high filtration masks important for equity?
A recent study from NYC showed that racial inequities in COVID increased during the latest Omicron surge. Today, those at highest risk of being impacted by COVID because of mask mandate removals are also those with the least means to buy high quality high filtration masks for themselves and their families.
Free, easily accessible, high filtration masks are critical to ensure that COVID-related health inequities do not widen.
What can you do?
The FXB center and Project N95 have partnered to address this urgent need, and have already distributed over 500,000 high filtration masks in collaboration with local community organizations. We are raising funds to distribute an additional 1,000,000 high filtration masks. Please donate, amplify our message, and share with colleagues.
About Project N95
Project N95 is a founding member of the coalition. It is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) rapid response organization which has the objective of providing access for all to affordable, authentic personal protective equipment and COVID-19 tests. We protect communities and the people who live and work in them by providing equitable access to the resources they need to stay safe through the COVID-19 pandemic.
About Harvard University’s FXB Center
The François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University (FXB Center) is a founding member of the coalition, and will help identify community partners and ensure masks reach those most in need. The Center uses interdisciplinary approaches to promote equity and dignity for those oppressed by racism, poverty, and stigma. It partners with scholars, educators, elected officials, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and members of the international policy community to advance health and human rights.
Partner groups to date:
- Fair Count and GA DPH CHW Initiative, Atlanta Georgia
- Workers Defense Project, Houston, Dallas and Austin, TX
- Step Up Louisiana, New Orleans LA,
- New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice, New Orleans, LA
- St. Landry Parish School Board, Opelousas, LA
- United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Eastern Region, Virginia Beach, VA
- Virginia Community Health Workers Association, Richmond, VA
- Missouri Jobs with Justice, St Louis, MO
- American Academy of Family Physicians, Kansas City, MO
- The Association of Mexicans in North Carolina, Inc (AMEXCAN), Greenville, NC
- Rebuilding Broken Places CDC, Goldsboro, NC
- YMCA of the Triangle, Raleigh, NC
- Alabama State University, Montgomery, AL
- Food Bank of North Alabama, Huntsville, AL
- Tulsa Day Center, Tulsa, OK
- Senior Resources, Columbia, SC
- Lowcountry Food Bank, Charleston, SC
- Harvest Hope, Columbia, SC
- Mississippi Association of Educators, Jackson, MS
- Heartland Hands (Mississippi Food Pantry), Horn Lake, MS
A special shout out to National Jobs with Justice, in Washington, DC for connecting us with many of these distribution partners.