Less than a week after Multnomah County put out a call for child-sized masks for families most affected by COVID-19, 10,000 masks were delivered on Friday, Sept. 25.
Chair Deborah Kafoury, Commissioner Sharon Meieran, and Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley gathered at Multnomah County headquarters Friday morning to accept the masks from Oregon manufacturer D6 Inc. The company donated them after hearing the County’s call to action earlier in the week.
“Since the beginning of this pandemic, we’ve known that it will take our entire community working together to navigate these unprecedented times,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said. “These 10,000 masks will go directly to the children and families who need it most, and they could not have arrived at a more critical time.”
Senator Wyden echoed that message, thanking D6 Inc. and Multnomah County for partnering to keep vulnerable children and families safe during the pandemic.
“The Oregon Way of neighbor helping neighbor was on full display at Multnomah County with this timely and wonderful donation of 10,000 children’s masks by D6,” Senator Wyden said. “Big thanks to D6 and Multnomah County for teaming up to keep kids safe with this important donation of PPE in response to this ongoing public health crisis.”
Senator Merkley joined Wyden in praising the donation. “Thank you, D6, for donating 10,000 masks to Multnomah County!” said Senator Merkley. “This gift will have a huge impact and showcases how great our community is when we look out for each other.”
D6 Inc.--which designs and manufactures packaging--has been producing personal protective equipment since the beginning of the pandemic, including face shields and masks. When Chief Executive Officer Edward Dominion saw the County’s request for donations, he said he moved quickly to distribute his existing inventory of child-sized masks.
“When we saw this story, it absolutely broke my heart,” Dominion said. “We just wanted to help and do the right thing in a bad situation.”
The donation addresses a shortage of masks that fit children’s smaller faces. That disparity is especially felt among Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities, who have been hit hardest by COVID-19. Health experts say children 2 and older should wear face coverings inside or outside whenever they can’t maintain six feet of distance.
Those health experts say that this need will extend well into the foreseeable future. Every national, state and local public health agency is strongly recommending face coverings as a major part of reducing the spread of COVID-19 (even after a vaccine becomes available).
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, community members have donated more than 23,000 masks to the County. Organizations including Crafters Against COVID PDX, formed by community member Ann Jin, have helped expand access to masks for all Multnomah County residents. Crafters Against COVID PDX quickly gained traction and now has more than 7,000 people creating and donating cloth masks.
Chris Voss, who directs the County's Office of Emergency Management, said masks are always in low supply and high demand. Once the Emergency Operations Center team receives a new shipment, they almost immediately go out into the community. Children’s masks are even more scarce.
“This is probably the area where we’ve seen the most need,” Voss said. “Every donated mask matters. These won’t be in our warehouse long. We’re going to get these into the hands of community members, probably in a matter of days.”
Another obstacle is delivery times. Often, Voss said, it takes 10 to 30 days to receive a shipment of masks. D6 Inc., which is building capacity to manufacture PPE in Multnomah County, aims to reduce delivery times. That would make it easier for Multnomah County to order and distribute PPE on a timely basis.
As an emergency room physician, Commissioner Sharon Meieran celebrated the 10,000 masks, echoing Senator Wyden’s description of the masks as a “medical miracle” for Multnomah County. She said the actions of D6 Inc., and others who have stepped in to donate much-needed PPE, highlight the importance of working together to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“There has been no shortage of bad news during these tumultuous times. D6 Inc.’s innovation and tremendous act of generosity is a much-needed piece of good news for our community,” Commissioner Meieran said. “This is the kind of action that will actually make a difference and that gives me hope as we continue to fight this pandemic.”