The intent of the project is to keep Rice County residents safe and the economy open by offering free masks to any Rice County business for its employees.
"This is a grassroots effort between the hospital and local providers," Dr. Stacy Dashiell said. "We feel that masks will be the best way to stop the spread of the coronavirus."
"Much varying information can be found on masks and we felt if we really believed in the effectiveness of masks, we should put all our effort into this project."
During a recent Facebook Live COVID-19 question and answer session, Dr. Kristi Darnauer said there have been numerous accounts of businesses having to shut down for a period of time after an employee tested positive for coronavirus.
She said employees of some small businesses might work in cramped quarters. If one employee tests positive for COVID-19, then every employee who works in the same area with that individual would also have to be quarantined for 14 days, which could shut down the business for 14 days as well.
"If you manage or are the owner of a local business and wish to receive these masks, please contact the hospital," Darnauer said.
"Also, if you frequent a business and you notice that the employee do not wear masks and you would like them to, or you would frequent them more often if they wore masks, please notify the hospital and I will visit the business with masks."
Darnauer said that the only way to keep our communities' safe long term and live a normal life is to wear masks until the virus can be controlled.
She said signage is available to be hung in windows that informs the public that the business is participating in the project and taking precautions to keep their customers safe while they are in the store.
"I know a lot of cases where people have walked into a business and realize that nobody is doing social distancing or wearing masks and they turn around and leave," Darnauer said. "That is money walking out of your business.
"We want to keep Rice County going economically as well as medically. They go hand-in-hand."
Dashiell said a donation was received to purchase masks for Sterling businesses and Darnauer has already distributed 260 masks in Sterling. Project organizers have also received a second shipment of masks and Darnauer will soon be visiting towns in the rest of the county.
Masks can be requested by calling the Rice County District Hospital at 620-257-5173 or the Sterling Medical Center at 620-278-2123 or by private message.
Masks will be available as long as supplies and funding allows.
Article courtesy of the Lyons Newspaper
by Manuel Gomez