VISIT Milwaukee, MMAC distribute 50,000 free masks

Tejinber Rajput and Patty Babber, co-owners of the CITGO station at 1645 W. Forest Home Ave., received packages of face masks from Peggy Williams-Smith of VISIT Milwaukee and Steve Baas of MMAC.

Last updated on July 28th, 2020 at 01:29 pm

VISIT Milwaukee and Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce partnered on Monday to deliver 50,000 face masks to Citgo gas stations across the city to distribute them for free.

The masks, from California-based manufacturer Fam Brands, will be distributed at 43 Milwaukee Citgo locations. With the city-wide mask mandate now in effect, the effort is aimed at providing any resident with a face covering who is in need of one. They will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis while supplies last.

Getting a mask into the hands of every Milwaukee resident is key to helping the tourism economy return and keeping hospitality workers and residents safe, said Peggy Williams-Smith, president and chief executive officer of VISIT Milwaukee.

“For tourism, much of the research specifically states that travelers feel safer coming to a city that has a mask mandate,” Williams-Smith said. “And we’ve already seen that happening at this point.”

The private sector’s support of masking helps encourage businesses and individuals to “exercise responsible freedom and best practices” for controlling the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, said Steve Baas, senior vice president of governmental affairs at MMAC.

“For MMAC, masks aren’t a political statement; they’re an economic statement,” Baas said. “The sooner we can slow the coronavirus, the sooner we can get Milwaukee back to business.”

“We really think it’s a good example to lead from the private sector,” he added. “Mandates have their limitations. We would like people to be doing this because they care about public health, because they care about their neighbors and because they care about getting this economy back open, not because someone told them to or because some government mandated it.”

Other businesses have also offered to help with the city-wide masking effort. Rebel Converting, a Saukville-based manufacturer of hospital-grade disinfectant wipes, has pledged to donate the materials to make 1 million face masks to be distributed to low-income individuals who couldn’t otherwise afford them.

If supplies go quickly, MMAC and VISIT could order and distribute more masks after the initial 50,000 are used, Baas said.

“This is a wonderful example of public-private partnerships meeting the needs of our community. We salute MMAC and VISIT Milwaukee for their tireless efforts to increase awareness about COVID-19 and its prevention as well as the provision of free masks for our community while the city works to procure thousands of masks to support MKE Cares, our new mask ordinance” said Dr. Jeanette Kowalik, Milwaukee health commissioner.

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