Masks4Jax Distributing Thousands of Cloth Masks to Fight COVID Pandemic

Apr 8, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control is now recommending that everyone wear a cloth face mask whenever we go anywhere outside our homes. To help make more available, a grassroots movement has launched in Jacksonville to spread awareness about mask-wearing and get more masks into people's hands.

Masks4Jax is distributing 30,000 cloth masks to nearly two dozen locally owned restaurants around Jacksonville. With your takeout food order at participating restaurants, you'll be given two cloth face masks made by a local distributor.

"There's an overwhelming amount of evidence that countries that wore masks all the time, especially during flu season, and pandemics like this, did much better during the COVID crisis in their countries than countries that didn't wear masks," said Dr. Samuel Oza, Chief of Cardiology at Ascensions St. Vincent's, Riverside. Oza is spearheading the Masks4Jax effort.

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

"And the reason for this is simple. When you wear a mask, you prevent the spread of virus to others. The mask actually provides a physical barrier so that when you cough, when you sneeze, when you're talking, the droplets which contain the virus particles don't spread to other people and other surfaces," Oza told First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross.

"We have a huge sense of urgency right now. Because we're right now in that slow-rise phase where we're seeing a few cases in the hospitals here. But if any other city is a guide, this is set to really ramp up in the next few weeks. And we want to get as many masks out as possible before then."

Oza says that after the 30,000 masks are distributed through local restaurants, Masks4Jax will also partner with the city of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Meals on Wheels, Duval County Public Schools and area homeless shelters to distribute 350,000 more masks over the next two weeks.

The mask distribution program will also help local restaurants hit hard by closures during the pandemic, says local restaurateur Jon Insetta, the proprietor of Bellwether, Orsay, and Black Sheep restaurants.

It's been incredibly tough," Insetta said. "But we were proactive about it. Our sales are down, I would say, 70 to really 65 to 90%, depending on the day of the week and the restaurant. Takeout and delivery seem to be a lower-risk situation."

To donate to Masks4Jax, visit this link via the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida.

Melissa Ross can be reached at mross@wjct.org, 904-358-6382 or on Twitter at @MelissainJax.