News Flash

Health Department - Spotlight on Health

Posted on: March 10, 2022

Health Department and community partners organize free KN95 mask and COVID-19 test kit distributions

JanFeb22 Community Distribution Spotlight

At the height of the Omicron surge, KN95 masks and at-home tests were hard to come by for many. To address this need and keep residents safe, the Washtenaw County Health Department organized a rapid response initiative in partnership with community leaders and organizations. Our COVID-19 outreach team quickly worked to secure resources and collaborate with partners to distribute free masks and test kits.

When this initiative started, supplies of KN95 masks and at-home tests were extremely limited. Our team had to be intentional and thoughtful about where resources went to ensure that those who experience the greatest barriers could get access. We prioritized neighborhoods and groups that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, including the 48197 and 48198 zip codes, African Americans, Latinx community members, lower-income households, and families who experience other barriers (transportation, language access). Masks and at-home tests were also given to people who were in isolation or quarantine and immediately needed these resources. 

Supplies were given out using multiple strategies. In partnership with community leaders, we organized drive-thru and walk-up events, directly distributed supplies to community- and faith-based organizations, and arranged drop-offs to people’s homes. We also collaborated with groups who support people who are homebound or have limited transportation to distribute supplies through their existing programs. 

Community partnerships were essential in all aspects of this rapid response work. Partners identified locations for distribution, developed promotional materials, and spread the word to motivate people in the surrounding communities to stay safe and get free supplies. Many organizations opened their doors to host the distributions and bring volunteers from the community to help run the events.

In the first two months of 2022, over 113,000 KN95 masks and over 28,000 at-home rapid tests were given out to Washtenaw County residents! This would not have been possible without the leadership and guidance of community partners and strong collaboration with WCHD staff, vaccine ambassadors, and volunteers.

What made these events so successful were the community partners and the relationships with the folks who were leading the events. We were really collaborating, sharing decision-making, and working together with partners who have first-hand, lived experience and direct knowledge of the communities that they care for, that they love and know. They were the ones really who knew how to best reach people in a short amount of time, those who really needed these resources the most. That’s what really drove and shaped a lot of these events.

-Adam Paberzs, WCHD Health Equity Policy Analyst

Thank you to all the community organizations, leaders, and hosts who helped to make these distributions possible:

  • Supreme Felons Inc
  • Ypsilanti Performance Space
  • Community Family Life Center
  • Grace Fellowship Church
  • New West Willow Neighborhood Association 
  • Whitehead Memorial Church
  • Restoration Outreach Ministries
  • Washtenaw My Brother’s Keeper
  • Community Leadership Revolution Academy
  • Mexiquenses en Michigan
  • St. Francis of Assisi Church
  • Women and Men Working for Change
  • Harry G. Parks Lodge 
  • Anna G Parker Temple
  • Ypsi Can I Share
  • Washtenaw County Racial Equity Office
  • Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development

This work is ongoing! We continue to distribute test kits and masks in partnership with local community groups. Thank you to every community member and organization that has helped to make this initiative successful. 

Test kits were provided by the Office of Community & Economic Development (OCED) through the State of Michigan. KN95 masks were provided by the Racial Equity Office through OCED and the Washtenaw County Free Mask Program. Altogether, the Washtenaw County Free Mask Program has distributed over 1.4 million masks throughout the county. 

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