Riverside County to distribute 10 million face masks in effort to curb spread of COVID-19

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Riverside County is ramping up efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 by distributing 10 million face masks to its residents.

The county is planning to give out the masks in the next 30 days as part of its "Masks are Medicine" campaign and public health officials are urging residents to wear them.

"In Riverside County, we surpassed 32,800 confirmed cases. We have more than 630 coronavirus-related deaths and more hospitalizations than at any point during the pandemic," said Kim Saruwatari, director of the county Department of Public Health.

The goal of the wide-spread distribution campaign is to get a face covering on every resident in the county, but masks alone won't do the job of slowing the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

"The combination of good hand washing, physical distancing and covering the face can decrease our risk for infection by 95%," said Dr. Geoffrey Leung with Family Medicine. "If we had a medicine that could decrease our risk of getting COVID by 95%, everyone would be taking it."

Fifty-thousand single-use masks were distributed to non-profit groups who lined up outside of the county's administration building on Friday. The masks will then be given to the members and clients of those organizations.

"These masks will go to our clients that are going through these distribution lines so we can allow for equitable access to face coverings to everyone within the desert region," said Erin Lucas with Find Food Bank.

The masks will also be handed out at all county and state-operated coronavirus testing sites. The county spent $2 million dollars to buy the mask with money it received from the federal CARES Act.

"The sooner we stop the spread, the sooner we can target economic vitalization opportunities to power things forward," said Lee Monville with the Riverside County Economic Recovery Task Force.
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