September 21, 2020

Multnomah County has launched a campaign to collect at least 10,000 child-size masks and distribute among communities who’ve been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

The Emergency Operations Center team is asking for 6-by-6-inch and 7-by-7-inch child-size homemade cloth masks, specifically, in “unused and in good condition.”

The campaign is designed to address the widespread need for masks that fit children’s smaller faces and offer them protection from COVID-19. For traditionally underserved communities, particularly Black, Indigenous and people of color communities (BIPOC), the shortage of masks has been even more pronounced.

“We are really conscious about our focus to serve our BIPOC communities, our small business owners, our childcare providers, immigrants, refugees, and other children in need, so that’s where we are going to put our focus,” says Vanessa Tharp, a deputy liaison officer at the County’s Emergency Operations Center. 

To combat this disparity, the emergency center is working with a team of city of Portland, County and nonprofit partners who can help distribute masks to those who need them most. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the County has received more than 23,000 masks donated by the community. Members of organizations such as Crafters Against COVID PDX, formed by community member Ann Jin, have helped lead the effort to make masks more widely available for all Multnomah County residents. Crafters Against COVID PDX quickly gained traction and now has more than 7,000 people creating and donating cloth masks.

That work has helped many adults in underserved communities receive reusable masks. Longer term, the County hopes to collect hundreds of thousands of masks for distribution.

But the availability of child-sized masks remains an issue, and the Emergency Operations Center needs more community support to address that gap, says the mask campaign’s donations lead, Shawn Postera.

“We know that we have a group of people out there who know how to make the masks,” Postera says. Now it’s simply a matter of asking for help making child-size masks, too. 

Health officers recommend children 2 and older wear face coverings inside or outside whenever they can’t maintain six feet of distance. This includes at a grocery store, doctor’s office, or outside at play.

If you plan to make and donate masks, Tharp says, they should be made from two layers of tightly-woven fabric. Cotton (600 thread), Cotton and Flannel, Silk, Chiffon, or Flannel are strong options, per Oregon Health Authority guidelines. Though child-sized masks are the priority, adult masks are still needed as well.

Donations can be dropped off at the Multnomah Building, 501 S.E. Hawthorne, (use the loading dock on S.E. 6th Street) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays or 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays. 

Community organizations, healthcare providers, and government agencies can request resources, like face coverings here. If you have any questions, contact at donations@multco.us.