SOLEDAD — Free masks were available to Soledad residents through the city’s Little Free Pantry locations at Our Lady of Solitude, El Buen Samaritano and Liberty Chapel churches, beginning Aug. 14.
The distribution of single-use, disposable masks through the pantry will continue as long as possible. They are an ongoing effort by the city to get masks out to residents in order to protect them from the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as to help avoid the need to issue tickets to people for not wearing masks.
Soledad police officers will also have masks with them, and residents can request free masks from any officer.
“We are all adjusting to this new ‘normal,’” said Carla Strobridge Stewart, a city council member. “Instead of focusing only on a monetary fine, I felt it was important to educate our citizens on the importance of wearing a mask. Rather than handing them a citation, why don’t we hand them a mask and talk to them a bit about why it’s important to slow the spread of Covid and how wearing a mask can help?”
Stewart brought up the idea during the council’s July 29 special session to ratify Interim City Manager Brent Slama’s executive order to enforce the wearing of masks. She asked the city and council members to consider educational efforts and have free masks available at the pantries rather than strictly operate in a punitive function.
In addition to masks, the pantries will have literature from the Monterey County Health Department in both English and Spanish to help educate residents about the health threat posed by Covid-19.
City staff will monitor the masks and restock them accordingly. In addition, Stewart said plans are in place among city staff to coordinate a drive-through mask distribution.
“Many families are impacted financially by this pandemic,” she said. “It is our responsibility to provide assistance for our citizens to be able to protect themselves and their loved ones. Soledad hosted the first mask distribution for South County residents where over 10,000 masks were distributed. Cars were beginning to line up two hours before the event even started.”