Masks for Communities
Today, the people at the highest risk of being impacted by COVID-19 are also the least able to afford quality high-filtration masks for themselves and their families. The Masks for Communities Coalition is a partnership between the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and Project N95 to distribute high-filtration masks for free to help limit the spread of COVID.
Why high-filtration masks?
As large numbers of Americans remove their masks, public spaces become less protected against COVID, and vulnerable people and others need options to keep themselves safe. In addition to COVID vaccines, high-quality respiratory protection helps defend against serious illness.
This is critical for those at high risk of complications from COVID, including people who are immunocompromised or unvaccinated—especially children under five. Thanks to the work of manufacturers, organizations like Project N95, and our partners and donors, that protection is available to the general public in the form of N95 respirators and other high-filtration face masks, such as KF94 and KN95 masks.
Why free masks?
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 because of high exposure risk—the poorest Americans are most likely to be working in person and in crowded conditions or living in multigenerational households—and because of bad outcomes after infection—the poorest Americans are also more likely to have multiple comorbidities due to structural factors.
Why is this important for equity?
Free, easily accessible high-filtration masks are critical to ensuring that COVID-related health inequities do not widen.
The people with the highest risk factors for COVID-19—in terms of both exposure and outcomes—are also the poorest Americans, meaning they have the least access to quality high-filtration face masks. This problem has real-life consequences: A study from NYC Health showed that racial inequities in COVID infections increased during the Omicron surge. The people at the greatest risk are also the people most in need of help.