CLAREMONT — Local Rotarians and The Common Man Restaurant are giving away free reusable masks Saturday in Claremont, Charlestown and Newport, in an effort to promote public safety during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., people may receive two cloth masks for each member of their household at a drive-thru service hosted by local Rotary Clubs. The masks are washable and reusable, so two masks enables every individual to have one mask available when washing the other.
The initiative is presented by Mask Up NH, a collaborative project by The Common Man Restaurant family and the Plymouth Rotary Club to distribute protective masks across New Hampshire communities, with the help of local Rotaries.
“It’s something that every Rotary Club we’ve approached has been excited to do,” said Steve Rand of the Plymouth Rotary Club. “It falls right into the Rotary Club motto which is service above self and really warms the cockles of Rotarians’ hearts to do something good for people.”
In April, The Common Man Restaurant owner Alex Ray, of Plymouth, hired workers from impoverished villages in Honduras to make him some masks. Ray bought the materials and paid the workers a rate of 50 cents per mask, which is “amazing” compensation in Honduras, Ray told the Eagle Times.
In wanting to increase his order, Ray partnered with a business connection in Honduras to produce over 67,000 masks.
Mask Up NH began mask distributions in Plymouth five weeks ago, initially setting up their operation in a Molly the Trolly car, dubbed the “Maskmobile.”
“We gave away 5,800 masks over three four-hour segments,” Ray said. “It’s a drive-up, where you don’t get out of your car. We give you instructions and thank you for supporting [us].”
The event also raised over $5,800 in donations for the Plymouth Rotary, Ray said. The revenue generated inspired the idea to bring Mask Up NH to other New Hampshire communities and include other Rotary chapters.
Mask Up NH has travelled to nine towns so far, and has another three or four towns scheduled after Claremont, Charlestown and Newport.
The Sugar River Rotary in Claremont, who is hosting a two-day event, began distributing masks on Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Stevens High School on Broad Street. The Rotary will continue its mask giveaway today at Stevens from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Rotary Club of Charlestown will distribute masks, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at two locations: the Charlestown Rotary Garden at 18 Fling Rd., and the Charlestown Fire Department at 1 S. Main St.
“The fire and ambulance departments and the Boy Scouts are going to help us out,” said Charlestown Rotarian Albert St. Pierre. “It’s a community event.”
The Newport Rotary Club will distribute masks at Newport Plaza on 47 John Stark Hwy., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Rep. Gary Merchant, a Claremont Rotarian, has been a strong advocate for wearing masks in public spaces. In addition to promoting Mask Up NH, Merchant first suggested that the Claremont City Council take a leadership role to encourage city businesses and residents to adopt mask-wearing practices.
Fundamentally, by having people wearing face masks, it minimizes the spread of the virus,” Merchant said. “And if we all do it the economy can open faster and be more vibrant than if we did otherwise. We’re trying to avoid having to close things down again if another wave [of the virus] comes through.”
The wearing of masks has been a source of debate in communities nationwide, though mask proponents attribute some of the criticism to common misunderstandings about their purpose.
“The mask is not for the protection of the [wearer] but for the protection of the people around you,” Rand said. “So [the mask] is like an altruistic act. When you wear a mask you’re helping other people.”
The virus spreads through droplets of moisture, most often those emitted from the nose or mouth through sneezing, coughing or even loud talking, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
While masks do not completely block contagious droplets from passage, the mask, when worn properly, can significantly change or weaken the trajectory of those emissions, Rand said. Whereas an unobstructed cough may project particles several feet, when wearing a mask those particles may cling to the mask material or drop to the ground.
Masks do not replace the need for social distancing, according to the CDC. Rather masks should be worn in combination with maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others.
“Our objection is to flatten the curve,” Rand said. “We don’t want a problem, so being ahead of it is a good thing.”