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Seniors receive thousands of masks for protection during coronavirus crisis

Caroline Anderson uses barbecue tongs to pass out a packet of 10 face masks to a person in their car as part of the Chinese Club of La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta's Masks for Many program to help senior citizens in the community protect themselves amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Caroline Anderson uses barbecue tongs to pass out a packet of 10 face masks to a person in their car as part of the Chinese Club of La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta’s “Masks for Many” program to help senior citizens in the community protect themselves amid the coronavirus outbreak.
(Tim Berger/La Cañada Valley Sun)

Facemasks have been increasingly hard to come by during the coronavirus outbreak for both medical professionals and regular people alike, but a La Cañada-based group has stepped up to help provide the protective garment to senior citizens in the community.

The Chinese Club of La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta has begun distributing surgical masks to seniors, who are among the most at-risk of becoming severely ill from the virus that causes COVID-19. The group has dubbed their efforts as “Masks for Many.”

“Our thought was that we have a lot of seniors in the community, and I know a lot aren’t going out, but some are,” Caroline Anderson, a member of the club said. “We put it out on Nextdoor that if you’re 65 or over we want to give you masks, no caveats.”

The announcement of the offer was made Sunday evening; on Tuesday afternoon a steady of stream cars made its way through the Foothill Chinese School’s parking lot as members of the club passed out masks while wearing gloves and using barbecue tongs to handle the packages.

The distribution was kept to 10 masks per person.

Lola Dietrich, another club member, said the group had been trying to find masks to hand out but had come up empty at stores and with online retailers. It wasn’t until a community member came forward with a connection to a manufacturer that they were able to get their hands on the precious commodity. The money for the protective masks came via fundraising efforts.

“We have friends and family in China so we know how bad this [virus] is and how important it is to have masks,” she said. “Right away we ordered them.”

Dietrich figures the club has received roughly 70,000 masks from the manufacturer.

Members with the Chinese Club of La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta line up along the parking lot at the Foothill Chinese School on March 31 as they hand out face masks to senior citizens as part of the group's "Masks for Many" program to help protect the elderly amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Members with the Chinese Club of La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta line up along the parking lot at the Foothill Chinese School on March 31 as they hand out face masks to senior citizens as part of the group’s Masks for Many program to help protect the elderly amid the coronavirus pandemic.
(Tim Berger/La Cañada Valley Sun)

Anderson said the group gave out roughly 5,000 masks during its distribution Tuesday and plan to repeat the effort at the school on Thursday morning. Seniors who were unable to come out for the distribution received their masks through contact-less delivery.

Deliveries are only limited to members of the La Cañada and La Crescenta communities since the club has fewer than a dozen members and not enough bandwidth to deal with any type of large-scale distribution, according to Anderson.

“We’re trying to keep it close because we don’t want to be driving all over and potentially spread the virus,” she said.

As of Tuesday afternoon there were eight confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus reported in La Cañada and 76 cases in Glendale, according to Los Angeles County health officials.

Several thousand masks were also passed out to medical professionals around the Southland with the help of the Chinese University Alumni Assn. Alliance of Southern California, according to Anderson.

For the tens of thousands of masks they still have on hand, the club plans to pass them out as needed to community members and organizations.

To find out how to obtain a set of masks for seniors in the La Cañada and La Crescenta areas, email masksformany888@gmail.com.

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