Anchorage distributes thousands of free cloth masks to community

Dozens of cardboard boxes containing cloth masks are stacked on pallets inside a warehouse.
Boxes of cloth masks wait to be distributed to Anchorage community organizations. (Photo courtesy Audrey Gray/Anchorage Emergency Operations Center)

Anchorage began distributing 160,000 free cloth masks to the community on Monday. The masks came from the federal Department Health and Human Services, which aims to distribute 1 million masks to Alaskans. They’re plain white cotton and washable, said Audrey Gray, public information officer for the city’s emergency operations. 

Gray said specific organizations in the community will be distributing masks to their clients or users. Those include Anchorage community councils, public libraries, the school district and several health and social services organizations. Transit riders who don’t have a mask can obtain one while boarding buses and homeless shelters like Brother Francis and the Sullivan arena have supplies for their clients.

“We’re trying to make sure that they’re going to folks who may have a barrier to buying a mask, whether it’s a transportation barrier, maybe they’re financially not able to buy a mask,” she said. “That’s why we’re prioritizing it and using the distribution methods that we are.”

A woman with glasses wears a white, cloth mask.
Emergency Operations Center Public Information Officer Audrey Gray wears a cloth mask like the ones being distributed in the community. (Photo courtesy Audrey Gray)

The municipality has another 130,000 face coverings on hand to distribute to community organizations as needed, Gray said. This is the third round of community mask distribution during the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend mask-wearing to catch potentially infectious respiratory droplets, which can help slow the spread of COVID-19. Since late June, Anchorage has remained under a mandatory mask order for most indoor public settings, with some health and activity exceptions.