Over the last month, it became tragically clear that the Delta variant was dissimilar in a critical way from the Covid that has dictated so much of the past 18 months in our community and country: Children across the South were getting sick, in numbers far outpacing past waves of this dreadful disease. Public health professionals and epidemiologists across the country began advising that unvaccinated children wear higher-quality masks than the simple cloth ones that have become so commonplace in mitigating spread.
Because children under age 12 are not expected to be eligible for vaccinations until Thanksgiving, and because school was about to resume across Franklin County, we reached out our friend Nick Jones, Director of Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, with one goal: To track down higher-quality children’s masks that we could quickly make available to the many thousands of children our nonprofit agencies reach.
We eventually succeeded in identifying Demetech, a Florida-based manufacturer that could get us a significant number of medical grade disposable masks within mere days of making an order.
And that’s when we reached out to Franklin County’s Administrator of Community Partnerships, Dayna McCrary, to gauge an additional partner in this effort. Within hours, we had an enthusiastic and urgent green light from she and Franklin County Administrator Wilson to proceed without delay (with formal approval occurring today, per the above video).
A few days later on September 3rd, our members at Mid-Ohio Food Collective generously served as host for this enormous effort. Pre-sorting the masks to ease the process, MOFC let us take over their lobby for the afternoon, when 165,000 masks were distributed to 40 of our member agencies–45,000 from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and 120,000 from Franklin County.
These masks are being handed out and worn by children as we write, just hours after all our state’s children’s hospitals rung the alarm bells once more of the threat this variant is posing to children in schools, after school programs, child care programs, and more.
Our hope is that these masks will make our unvaccinated children a little safer while cases continue to rise in our community, and we are so very grateful to have been apart of this effort.