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Local labor union distributing hundreds of masks to schools

Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 2:23 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 10, 2022 at 7:35 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - While the federal government is still rolling out its free N95 mask distribution, local labor unions are taking it upon themselves get high quality masks into the homes, or rather, onto the faces of students and teachers.

The Biden Administration’s program requires people to pick up the masks from local pharmacies, but the labor unions are delivering their masks directly to schools.

Today, representatives from the South Carolina AFL-CIO and SMART Sheet Metal took hundreds of masks to North Charleston Elementary to kick off their statewide distribution effort. James Hall with SMART Sheet Metal Workers Local 399 says the masks they are distributing are specially sized for children.

“You are hard pressed to find a mask made for small children, let alone a KN95,” Hall said. “So we went ahead and had American made, nice double layered masks that are washable and that would actually fit them.”

The effort is fully supported by donations and right now they’ve produced around 1,500 masks specifically for kids and another 250 for adults. However, Hall says there is tremendous support and they will continue ordering and delivering masks for the foreseeable future.

“As more donations come in, the further out we will go out to the state,” Hall said. “[Students are] the future of our communities. We are trying to look out for them.”

While the omicron variant is on the way out, cases of COVID-19 in Charleston County are still as high as they were at the peak of the delta variant and masks are still mandated in the Charleston County School District until March 14. Around the country, cities and states have begun relaxing their covid restrictions, but Hall says as long as COVID-19 is still in the community, masks will still be needed.

“We see another variant coming ahead,” Hall said. “Covid is not ever going to go away. It’s going to be like the flu, just different variants. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as the original strain, but we want to make sure they’re protected if they want to have that.”

The World Health Organization has already predicted the next variant of concern may be more transmissible. Charles Brave, President, SC AFL-CIO says he felt it was important to make sure everyone in the schools had access to a quality mask.

“Covid will be around for some time now and with it being around sometime, the most beautiful thing about it is when it does partly fade away the mask will make history. They will always have it to hang on to,” Brave said.

The masks come in a variety of colors and each is embroidered with the phrase “I matter” on them.

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