Cook County Distributing 500,000 Masks to Fight the Spread of COVID-19

October 1, 2020

County partners with local organizations to distribute masks in 18 at-risk communities and expands #MaskUp campaign

Oak Forest, IL — As coronavirus case counts and deaths continue to rise, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle along with Department of Emergency Management and Regional Security Executive Director William Barnes announced today the procurement of half a million cloth masks for distribution to the County’s most vulnerable residents.

“I believe that government’s most basic role is to ensure our residents’ safety and security," said President Preckwinkle. "We do this by providing the resources and information residents need to stay safe. Science tells us that a mask – a simple mask – can literally save lives, as we continue the battle against COVID-19. If our residents are armed with masks and use them properly, we can remain healthy and keep those we come into contact with healthy as well." 

The County has identified 18 communities with the greatest need using the COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index (CCVI). This index, developed by the County’s Department of Public Health (CCDPH), takes into account COVID-19 rates along with factors that impact the Social Vulnerability Index, such as socioeconomic and minority status, disability, language barriers, housing type and access to transportation.

“Throughout this pandemic we have worked to identify needs in our community and to do all we can to fill those needs,” said Bill Barnes, Executive Director of the County’s Department of Emergency Management and Regional Security. “And now as we battle through the seventh month of this pandemic, we must ensure that our most vulnerable residents have the resources they need to stop the spread of this virus.”

More than 5,200 Cook County residents have died from COVID-19 infections since the pandemic first began and more than 145,000 people in the County have contracted COVID-19. The U.S. death toll from the virus stands at over 200,000, with more than one million deaths worldwide.

“The effectiveness of masks is real,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead and senior medical officer at CCDPH. "Wearing a mask along with physical distancing, hand washing and contact tracing are our best and proven strategies against COVID-19. We are all tired, but if we do these things now, we can save lives and win the fight against COVID-19."

The masks are branded with the hashtag #ONECOOKCOUNTY and each recipient will receive two masks. The Harvey Area Chamber of Commerce has already received an allotment for the residents they serve.

“These masks are being utilized as part pf the Harvey Area Chamber of Commerce's ‘Mask Up For A Healthy Harvey’ initiative reinforcing our mission as an economic advocate motivating social reform in the city of Harvey and its vicinity,” said Co-Founder and Director of the Harvey Area Chamber of Commerce A’ndrea Paxton. “We understand that access to information and resources empowers communities to support sustainable businesses.” 

Other partner organizations will begin receiving masks from distribution within the week.

“The COVID-19 pandemic which has severely and disproportionately impacted the Latino community in so many ways demonstrates the extreme urgency now more than ever to strengthen our healthcare and safety net programs and ensure that much needed resources come to Illinois and Cook County,” said Rincon Family Services President and CEO Eddy Borrayo. “These masks represent hope, resiliency and another step forward in making sure that our working families are safe and protected during this pandemic."

In conjunction with the mask distribution, the County is also expanding its #MaskUp education campaign, focusing on communities of color and residents for whom English is not a first language. The campaign will continue its focus on wearing a mask, washing your hands and watching your distance through digital, social, radio and billboard messaging.

The 18 prioritized communities identified based on the CCVI include:

  • City of Markham
  • City of Harvey
  • Village of Robbins
  • City of Blue Island
  • City of Chicago Heights
  • Village of Stone Park
  • Village of Melrose Park
  • Village of South Chicago Heights
  • Village of Summit
  • Village of South Holland
  • Village of Phoenix
  • City of Evanston
  • Village of Riverdale
  • Village of Posen
  • Village of Dixmoor
  • Town of Cicero
  • Village of Bridgeview
  • City of Northlake

The County’s Department of Transportation and Highways is also assisting in mask distribution efforts. The County utilized CARES Act funding to purchase masks and for costs associated with the education campaign. 

For more information about Cook County’s #MaskUp campaign, please visit www.maskupcookcounty.com.