Coronavirus Chicago: 'Mask Up and Live' campaign hands out free face masks on West, South sides

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Coronavirus in Chicago is hitting the city's African American community especially hard, so Friday groups handed out face masks in two neighborhoods to equip and educate residents.

Groups on the South and West sides handed out free masks and information material to residents in North Lawndale and Auburn Gresham Friday.

In Auburn Gresham St. Sabina's faith community, along with several South Side organizations, teamed up and took over the intersection of 79th and Racine Avenue to hand out masks.

In North Lawndale, State Rep. La Shawn Ford and another group of African American men banded together to back the campaign "Mask Up and Live."

"We know that there's going to be moves to say that you must have masks to be in public places," Ford said.

"So our effort was to come together as black men because when America catches a cold, black America catches the flu," said Mark Carter from Mask Up and Live.

The African American community has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, representing more than 70 percent of coronavirus deaths and more than 60 percent of infections, even though they only make up around one-third of Chicago's population.

Chicago native and Rap artist Twista threw his influence behind the campaign to persuade young people to wear masks.

"I would say put your mask on, protect yourself, because you may be brave enough to tough it out but you don't know what's gonna happen when you go back home and you sit around your favorite auntie or your grandmother or your mother or your baby sister," the rapper said in a video message. "So if you love them, wear your mask."

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So far the campaign has been able to secure 10,000 masks in less than five days.

Some of the masks were purchased and others donated.

Mask Up and Live is looking to raise $3 million to $5 million to keep the program going.

The group also delivered some of the masks to a firehouse at Pulaski Road and 16th Street Friday morning.

"This morning I had a call from senior buildings needing masks, and grammar schools, like William Penn School, they needed masks, the nursing home in the area, they needed masks," said Creative Scott, owner of Creative Salon.

The salon has been in the North Lawndale community for 20 years, and it will serve as the location for people who need masks to come and get them.

"Of course we should have the masks at Creative Salon as we give out to the community. We're going to knock on doors and give some out as well and have organizations come to Creative Salon, as well," Scott said.

The salon is located at 3946 West 16th Street.

The giveaway comes as Governor JB Pritzker considers whether he'll require people to cover their faces in the state, and as the CDC continues to recommend using cloth face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
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