Health centers across the city of Boston received a critical delivery of thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment on Saturday in their fight against the novel coronavirus.
Boston Police Commissioner William Gross helped deliver 7,200 N95 masks, donated by Facebook Corporate, to 22 community health centers around the city.
"We just didn't want to forget the neighborhood health centers," Gross said. "Not everyone can go to the major hospitals. So you walk to your neighborhood health center, and it's just as important that we provide safety measures for them as well because trust me they are the front lines, they are taking care of the community."
At Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury, officials said the masks donation came at the right time as many people are coming to their neighborhood health centers since hospitals are overwhelmed amid the pandemic.
"This is a life saver," said Frederica Williams, president of the Whittier Street Health Center. "We hear so many horror stories of front line employees that are losing their lives."
"Folks like my family will turn to health centers around the corner," said Michael Curry, Deputy CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers.
But health care centers won't be able to keep up with an increase in patients if doctors, nurses and health care workers aren't protected.
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"If they are sick and they are not able to be there, that does not serve our communities well," Curry said.
Some of the masks will be brought to hospitals in the city, as well.
The search for PPE is still front of mind as hospitals and health care workers in Massachusetts brace for the surge that health experts are predicting in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks.
"I spoke with Governor Charlie Baker today and was able to inform him we are watching the Boston area very closely, 100 ventilators are deploying today," Vice President Mike Pence said during a White House coronavirus task force briefing on Friday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says all Americans, even those who are healthy, should use cloth materials and basic masks to cover their faces.
The guidance on face coverings changed after evidence showed increased transmissions from people who have not yet shown symptoms and people who carry the virus but do not show symptoms, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said.
Adams also stressed that surgical masks and N95 masks should be saved for health care workers. He added that social distancing is still the most important aspect of slowing the spread.
"This is not a substitute for social distancing," Adams said.