Ford Motor Co. is donating 1.5 million face masks to a state government initiative to combat spread of the coronavirus by distributing 4 million free masks to low-income communities, senior centers, schools and homeless shelters.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the Mask Up Michigan initiative Aug. 14 alongside Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II and retiring Ford CEO Jim Hackett at a news conference in Lansing.
"This is a moment when our country needs us—and we're stepping up," Hackett said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will supply the state with 2.5 million of the masks.
Ford, which has pivoted into production of personal protection equipment during the coronavirus pandemic, is donating 1.5 million masks.
The Dearborn-based auto maker has produced 72 million pieces of PPE, which have included ventilators, respirators and face shields that are assembled at Ford's Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti.
Hackett said Ford would use its dealership network to distribute face masks to different communities across the state.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has already distributed 1.5 million masks from FEMA to community action agencies that serve low-income adults and children, homeless shelters, DHHS offices, Area Agencies on Aging and Native American tribes.
For schools in low-income communities, there will be different size masks for children, DHHS Director Robert Gordon said.
Masks also will be distributed to certain grocery stores, including Hispanic grocery stores that serve migrant workers, Gordon said.
Public health experts have been stressing the importance of wearing masks in public places to prevent the spread and contraction of the coronavirus, which is spread through droplets from the nose and mouth.
"Even if the mask doesn't block all droplets from getting to you, it can block some of them," Gordon said. "And that can make the difference between getting COVID asymptomatically and getting COVID and ending up in the ICU."