UTICA, N.Y. – Oneida County is distributing roughly 50,000 cloth face masks Friday at various locations in Utica and Rome.
The free masks can be picked up until 4:30 p.m. at the following places:
- County office building, 800 Park Ave., Utica
- Social Services building, 301 W. Dominick St., Rome
Masks will also be distributed at Walmart stores in Utica, Rome and New Hartford -- but only to people who do not have any.
"Walmart distribution of these masks, they're not doing it like we are. If someone shows up to their store and they don't have a mask on, because you can't get into the store if you don't have a mask on, they're going to offer them a mask," said Kevin Green, director of the Oneida County Youth Bureau.
One package of five masks will be provided to each individual or family.
County Executive Anthony Picente announced earlier in the week that an executive order would go into effect May 1, requiring all residents to wear face coverings in public.
Picente said the county would make masks available to people so they would have "no excuse" not to follow the order.
"The county executive has given us a chance today to come out and give out some free masks to our citizens here in Oneida County. So, as you can see, there have been a lot of people that have come through. It's a great opportunity for folks to help outfit someone in their family and themselves. It's a great thing that we are trying to do here," said Green.
One Utica resident, Rahem Jones picked up a set of masks in Utica, saying "I got eight people in my house. I got young ones, so I have to protect them. And why it's important? Due to the fact that nobody knows when this is going to end."
Picente has also asked local retailers and businesses that are still open do their part to enforce the new order, for the safety of both staff and customers.
If businesses are found not in compliance, they may face misdemeanor charges and fines up to $2,000.