MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Hundreds of people most at-risk for contracting coronavirus were able to get free masks Saturday, thanks to a fundraiser and giveaway organized by three local lawmakers.
Masks have become a hot commodity during the COVID-19 pandemic, so when Sarah Monroe, who was visiting a nearby gas station, heard free cloth masks were being given away at Harmony Plaza in north Memphis Saturday morning, she rushed right over.
"Even though the city has opened up partially, coronavirus is still out there," said Monroe. "So, you've still got to watch yourself at all times."
That's what organizers of the mask giveaway say they had in mind.
State Representative Antonio Parkinson and Memphis City Council members Michalyn Easter-Thomas and Rhonda Logan are the brains behind the endeavor, called Masks for Memphis.
They teamed up to raise money to provide free masks for people who are low-income and others at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19, including seniors and African Americans.
"We want to make sure that those in our communities are protected as much as possible and we want to encourage them to wear their masks," said Parkinson. "We wear masks so we can protect other people around us, so if we get everybody to wear a mask when they're in the vicinity of other people, then we might be able to keep the spread of coronavirus down."
The Shelby County Health Department confirmed over 100 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 6,556, along with 139 deaths. About 70% of people infected have recovered, the health department says.
Though officials are allowing more businesses to reopen for phase three on Monday, the numbers show the COVID-19 threat is not over. That’s something Monroe says everyone should keep in mind.
"That is important," she said. "We can't get too laid-back thinking that it's gone and it's not. It still exists."
Organizers gave away masks at three locations on Saturday.
Their goal is to raise $50,000 to provide 20,000 masks to Memphians in the coming weeks.
For more information, including to make a tax-deductible donation, visit the Masks for Memphis Facebook page.