To help communities combat the spread of COVID-19, and as part of its “A Mask for Every Utahn” initiative, this week, the state of Utah is sending boxes of #MaskUtah masks to Associated Food Stores, Smith’s Food and Drug stores and other retail establishments throughout the state. Grocery stores that serve vulnerable or underserved populations are being prioritized for mask distribution.

This project is a collaborative partnership between the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), Associated Foods, Utah Food Industry Association and Kroger to help protect customers and store associates. Masks will be distributed at grocery stores and pharmacies, hardware stores, convenience stores and other retail outlets. 

Customers can request a reusable cloth mask by visiting a customer service station at participating retail outlets. The list of stores receiving free masks is available here.

“For Utahn’s who haven’t been able to make or locate a face covering, the distribution of #MaskUtah masks to grocery stores and other retail outlets in Utah provides one more way the state is utilizing federal CARES Act funds to help Utahns and respond to the coronavirus pandemic,” said Ben Hart, deputy director at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the state worker leading the initiative. “Using a face-covering in public is a gesture of respect for those around you, and an essential part of limiting the spread of COVID-19.”

“As local grocers, we are pleased to help our communities by partnering with other groups to distribute these critical defenses throughout the state of Utah,” said David Rice, senior vice president, retail coordination for Associated Food Stores. “Just as a grocery store cannot succeed without each team member and department’s contribution, we recognize the same is true for us as citizens. We need one another to combat this illness to return to our “new normal” as quickly as possible.”

Using grocery stores as a delivery vehicle for the masks — in addition to some targeted distribution to nonprofits and other groups that serve vulnerable populations — has been part of the initiative’s plans since its onset. To date, the program has received orders from 272,156 households requesting a total of 1,161,049 masks.

“Local grocery and convenience stores and their front-line workers have been a critical staple in their communities during this global pandemic,” said Dave Davis, president and chief legal officer at Utah Food Industry Association. “Partnering with the state of Utah to provide much-needed masks to its citizens is a privilege and a natural fit for our industry. Because of this partnership, our retail stores are now not only a hub for the distribution of critical food and cleaning supplies, but they can also facilitate the efficient distribution of essential PPE to Utahns in need.”

For this initiative, 1.25 million #MaskUtah masks are being made in-state, by Utah manufacturers. ‘A Mask for Every Utahn’ has saved or created 300 jobs in the state, according to the Utah Manufacturers Association, the primary organization that partnered with the state on the initiative.

“Under this new normal, Smith’s is constantly monitoring and evolving our pandemic preparedness plan. We are pleased to partner with the state of Utah to distribute face masks to our customers,” said Aubriana Martindale, Smith’s spokesperson. “As the country moves toward reopening, we will continue to safeguard our customers’ health and well-being. We are all in this together as we work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and ensure our shared communities’ safety.”