Three P.E.I. women have joined an Islandwide effort to provide reusable COVID-19 masks to Islanders.
Alyssa MacKinnon, Emma Drake and Sweta Daboo launched a Facebook page on Tuesday called Mask Central P.E.I. which aims to bring together three groups: those accepting donations of masks to distribute, donors looking to help get masks to those who need them and people in communities across the province who need a mask.
“It's like a facilitator role where we’re listing all the information in one spot and helping three different groups of people find each other,’’ said MacKinnon, who speaks for Mask Central P.E.I. “I have seen a lot of people on social media wondering how we can get masks into the hands of Islanders who may be low-income or who may be in need of masks.’’
Mask wearing became mandatory in all public indoor places on Nov. 20.
Mask Central P.E.I. is the latest group to respond to the need for masks.
MacKinnon said her group has been thinking about joining the effort since the beginning of the pandemic.
“There are lots of places that hand out non-reusable masks for free, but those are typically found at grocery stores or shopping centres,’’ said MacKinnon, adding that many low-income Islanders probably aren’t frequenting those businesses. “And, they are disposable, so it really adds a lot of waste because they’re typically only for one use.’’
She saw a lot of talk on social media about getting masks to those in need, but no one knew where to start.
So, the three women launched a Facebook page that includes a Google spreadsheet for organizations and groups to fill out if they are interested in collecting masks and distributing. Questions about the locations for mask drop-offs and the sizes of mask required are part of the spreadsheet.
The spreadsheet will be made public. It will also be designed so that people can get access to information on the type of masks they want.
MacKinnon said they won’t be distributing the masks. They’ll be leaving that in the hands of those doing the groundwork in the communities.
“I think that’s important because we all, for the most part, live and work in the Charlottetown area. If we’re distributing masks ourselves, our reach probably wouldn’t be as far as we would like to go. If there is a community organization in Alberton (for example) accepting donations of masks ... the idea is the masks stay in that community. It’s like a facilitator role.’’
MacKinnon said the onus of getting reusable masks shouldn’t fall on low-income Islanders. Communities have been stepping up and must continue to do so, she added.
“It's our job to address the problem before it becomes a problem.’’
Charlottetown-Victoria Park MLA Karla Bernard said she’s thrilled to see one group after another join the mask effort.
“I noticed (on social media) there was some talk about how government should provide low-income Islanders with masks,’’ the Green MLA said. “We emailed the (health) department over the weekend and have heard nothing back, so we submitted a written question and emailed the minister of health and wellness (Tuesday) morning. This is a good idea from the community and demonstrates how Islanders are doing their best to look out for each other. Government should be supporting this.’’
At Monday’s COVID-19 media briefing, Premier Dennis King said he will be bringing it up with the health and wellness department.
“I wouldn’t want the affordability of a mask to be a determining factor here,’’ King said in response to a question from The Guardian.
- Mask Up P.E.I. is another one of the groups making and distributing masks in P.E.I.
- Kimberly Curran owns the Ellerslie business and has set up a Facebook page.
- Mask Up P.E.I. sells handmade three-layer masks on the Island and has shipped orders to Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and the United States. It offers drive-thru service and takes orders online.
- Curran said she has donated masks in her own community.
- “I have not heard of the group Mask Central P.E.I., however, I will look into it and make a donation,’’ Curran said. “We are a small business but I like to think we have been a help, especially in our community.’’
- The P.E.I. Women’s Institute is also making masks. Ellen MacPhail, executive director of the institute, said they are adding more people who sew in communities across the Island.
- MacPhail said the institute continues to donate to hospitals for families, patients and visitors who may have forgotten their masks. It’s a combined effort between the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Foundation, the institute and P.E.I. Mask+Aide.
- “At the onset of COVID-19, over 50 organizations had been donated to with the majority being directed to seniors homes, community care facilities and lower income groups across P.E.I.,’’ MacPhail said. “We have just switched our pattern to the three-ply, non-medical mask as recommended and those, too, will be directed for those needing to use them at hospitals.’’
Did you know?
The following information pertains to COVID-19 masks on P.E.I.:
- The P.E.I. Women’s Institute and P.E.I. Mask+Aide have donated more than 6,500 masks to date to hospitals across the province.