OGDEN — Grocery stores and other retail outlets across Northern Utah are getting a large supply of masks to distribute to customers, thanks to a new program being run by the state.

As part of its “A Mask for Every Utahn” initiative, the state is shipping 140,000 masks to Associated Food stores, Smith’s Food and Drug stores and other retail establishments across Utah, according to Tony Young, media relations manager for the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Young said the project is a collaborative effort between GOED, Associated Foods, the Utah Food Industry Association, and Kroger, aimed at protecting customers and employees from the COVID-19 virus.

Smith’s stores in Ogden, North Ogden, Brigham City, Farmington, Syracuse and Layton are all receiving masks. Other grocery stores in Weber, Davis and Box Elder counties — like Kent’s Market, Harmon’s, Winegar’s, Rancho Market, Lee’s Marketplace, Fresh Market, Ridley’s and Macy’s — will also receive masks.

Young said customers can request a reusable cloth mask by visiting the customer service station at the participating stores.

In addition to grocery stores, Young said the masks will be distributed at pharmacies, hardware stores, convenience stores and other retail outlets. A list of those stores will be released later. Young said grocery stores that serve vulnerable or underserved populations are being prioritized for mask distribution.

Ben Hart, GOED deputy director, said the masks have been purchased by utilizing funds received from the federal CARES Act.

The use of masks and, more specifically, government entities mandating them in public spaces has been a hot button issue of late, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures can’t be practiced.

The CDC says cloth face coverings are likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by acting as a simple barrier that prevents respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people. The CDC says coughs, sneezes and even someone raising their voice can cause respiratory droplets to become airborne. Children 2 and under should not wear masks, the CDC says.

Hart said using a face covering in public is a “gesture of respect for those around you.”

Associated Food, Smith’s and Kroger stores recommend customers wear masks, but do not mandate them for entry.

Aubriana Martindale, a spokesperson for Smith’s, said the company is “constantly monitoring and evolving our pandemic preparedness plan.”

Young said grocery stores are a good “delivery vehicle” for the masks because all citizens need groceries. As part of the state initiative, masks can also be ordered online at http://coronavirus.utah.gov/mask. Young said state is also doing some targeted distribution to nonprofits and other groups that serve vulnerable populations.

To date, the program has received orders from 272,156 households requesting a total of 1.2 million masks. As part of the program, 1.25 million masks are being made in-state, by Utah manufacturers.

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