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Groups unite with goal of making sure everyone in Martinsville, Henry County has and wears a mask to fight COVID-19

Groups unite with goal of making sure everyone in Martinsville, Henry County has and wears a mask to fight COVID-19

From the Martinsville-region COVID-19/coronavirus daily update from state, nation and world: July 3 series
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A group of government and business organizations are uniting their voices in an effort to persuade you to do one thing in the fight against COVID-19:

Wear. A. Mask.

The concept isn’t difficult to grasp, but a lot people can be observed maskless, even in Martinsville and Henry County, which formed a regional coronavirus hot spot only a few weeks ago. Experts say new cases of COVID-19 could decrease by as much as 90% if everyone wore a mask.

Lisa Watkins, president of the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, said she estimates that less than half the people she sees out in public are using a face covering.

“I would guess at 30 to 35% have one on consistently and properly, based on what I see when I utilize pickup ordering from stores that offer it or just driving by,” Watkins said.

Then there are others who put forth the effort to have a face covering handy but keep it in their pockets. Or someone has a mask that might might end up near his or her face but remain around the neck. Some folks seem to believe that only covering their mouths with masks will do the trick and altogether neglect covering their noses.

So in an effort to educate the community on the importance of a face mask during the pandemic, the chamber has teamed up with Martinsville and Henry County governments and other top organizations for a program called “Mask Up MHC.”

Sovah Health, The Harvest Foundation, Southern Virginia Baptist State Convention and the West Piedmont Health District are all part of the group that seeks to provide a mask to everyone in Martinsville and Henry County. The initiative also encourages wearing a mask properly and continuing social distancing.

These masks will be available throughout the community under the campaign during which fun, engaging activities will be promoted to encourage the wearing of masks. However, don’t expect a community block party with free masks being shot out of t-shirt canons. The campaign supports creative initiatives that follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines relating to COVID-19.

“Martinsville Uptown is asking that people share a picture of themselves wearing a mask properly in public for a chance to win Uptown Bonus Bucks to support Uptown businesses,” Watkins said. “Also, I understand we will have some ‘guess who is behind the mask?’ activities by some of the partner organizations.

“We will all keep trying to be creative. The Harvest Foundation is posting a series of catchy videos on their Facebook page, and partners are sharing to increase awareness.”

Still in the campaign’s infancy, there’s not an official list of businesses and organizations that have masks available. Many places are in the process of announcing that they have free masks to share. Others are selling face coverings, which are often handmade and come in a variety of designs.

“Our local businesses that sell them do charge,” Watkins said. “However, several opportunities exist to get one for free such as at our city municipal building and the Henry County Administration [Building], if you are visiting either. Quite a few businesses and organizations have them available if someone needs a mask.”

Even though wearing a mask in indoor public settings became mandatory on May 29 in Virginia, many questions circled around the specifics on enforcement. Although the chamber is helping lead the charge on the Mask Up MHC campaign, the organization doesn’t have the power to enter a blatantly defiant business and close its doors.

“Since we do not issue licenses or permits, we are unable to enforce the face mask policy; however, any of the organizations who do issue permits have the authority to hold businesses accountable,” Watkins said. “It is more prudent for businesses to comply with wearing of masks as it is very costly to shut down and sanitize a business after having a COVID-positive instance and most importantly, it is certainly not worth the potential loss of life.

“With that in mind, I strongly encourage business leadership to adhere to all COVID-19 requirements and incorporate as many of the best practices as practical. From the businesses we have been in touch with, they are willingly complying and we applaud them.”

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