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State officials put free masks in grocery stores in viral hot-spots across Utah

A sign inside Tejada's Market in Salt Lake City. The sign informs shoppers they won't be allowed to enter if they don't use a mask. (Photo credit: Paul Nelson, KSL Newsradio)

SALT LAKE COUNTY – State economic officials say they want to remove barriers that prevent people from getting the masks that reduce the spread of COVID-19.  That’s why the state is sending 140 thousand free masks to grocery stores across the state.

Since the Mask For Every Utahn program kicked off in late April, state officials say they’ve sent nearly 1.2 million masks to over 270 thousand households.  Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development Deputy Director Ben Hart says the program has been very effective.

Still, there are large groups of people who haven’t been able to get a mask.  So, they’ve targeted the areas where they’re seeing viral hotspots, especially in under-represented areas. And they’re putting masks inside the grocery stores where people shop.

“We have a better chance of getting people that really may need one to go into a grocery store and get one,” Hart said.

Where to get free masks

People can get a mask by going into a participating store, then requesting one at the customer service section.  Tejada’s Market in Glendale is scheduled to get 500 masks.  Store Supervisor Shelly Vredeveld hopes having them will convince more of their customers to wear them.

“This will definitely help.  We’ve got low-income people around here and a lot of elderly people that can’t get anywhere to get masks,” she said.

Doctors say the use of masks goes a long way in slowing the spread of the virus.  However, many people across Utah still don’t want to wear them.  Vredeveld says some of their patrons forget to put them on, and customers have gotten into arguments when they see others without them.

“Customers will tell other customers to wear them and vice versa,” Vredeeld said. “There are people that come in and think they’ve already had the virus, so they don’t need to wear it.”

Store managers don’t want to refuse service to anyone, however, Vredeveld says they’re taking steps to ensure as many people wear masks inside the store as possible.

“We’ve got our big signs at the front door and [we’re] being vigilant and nicely reminding people and asking them to put it on,” she said.

Over one million masks from the initiative were made in-state.  Officials with the Utah Manufacturers Association say this has either saved or created 300 jobs.

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

UtahState Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States