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Local COVID face mask project continues
Sixth Bulloch resident dies; case total now 660
Melanie Rodriguez, far left, fits a mask on Ana Perez, 5, as brother Carlos, 3, mom Abril Olarte, and Suzanna Olarte, far right, accept face coverings at Lowe's during Saturday's Mask Up Statesboro distribution on July 11. Volunteers passed out thousands of washable face coverings at various locations around town in the first initiative from Mayor Jonathan McCollar's recently formed COVID-19 Community Response Team. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Plans are being made to distribute more COVID-19 face masks throughout Bulloch County. About 4,000 were handed out Saturday in Statesboro, and more will be available this week, as well as in Brooklet, Register and Portal. 

Making the masks available to the public, free of charge, is part of a collaborative effort to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, said Bulloch County Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn.

Another Bulloch County resident passed away over the weekend, and 79 more people were diagnosed with coronavirus since Friday, bringing the total of confirmed COVID-19 cases to 660. The number of cases has increased from 62 on June 1 to 660 as of 3 p.m. Monday.

On Saturday, Bulloch recorded its sixth death due to the coronavirus, which marked the first time Bulloch residents died on consecutive days due to COVID-19. A 62-year-old woman died Friday. Wynn said Saturday’s victim was a woman more than 90 years old with comorbid conditions.

In Georgia, the state has added more than 23,000 coronavirus cases in the past week, rising to 120,569 confirmed cases as of Monday. Hospitalizations also have increased by 1,557 in the past week in Georgia to a total of 13,476 since early March. An additional 148 Georgians died in the past week, raising the total to 3,026 deaths.

As of Monday at 3 p.m., across the United States, 138,156 people have died from coronavirus, and there have been 3,472,449 confirmed cases.

On Saturday, about 25 local volunteers with Bulloch EMA, a COVID-19 action committee organized by Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar, and the “community movement” group called “Squashing the Spread Bulloch” handed out about 4,000 masks to people at local businesses. They plan to have another distribution at Luetta Moore Park on Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., he said. Additional times and locations in Statesboro may be announced later.

More masks will be available at other Bulloch County locations, too.

“Agencies promoting face mask usage locally are providing masks to Brooklet, Portal and Register for distribution,” Wynn said. Dates and times of distribution have yet to be determined, but residents of these towns can contact their city hall, which is where the masks will be delivered, he said.

Bulloch County EMA secured 10,000 cloth masks donated by Hanes Inc. last week, and more are coming. The effort Saturday was “very positive,” said Layne Phillips, public information specialist with the city of Statesboro. People visiting five locations took home 4,000 masks within a three-hour period. 

“Together with practicing social distancing and frequent hand washing, wearing cloth face masks is an effective method of slowing the spread of the virus,” said April Burke, spokesperson for “Squashing the Spread.”

Wynn has said he cannot stress the importance of masks enough, and added that they not only protect the wearer but help keep others safe in case you have the coronavirus and do not yet know it. Many can spread the virus without ever having symptoms.

Like across the state and many places in the nation, the COVID-19 numbers keep going up in Bulloch County. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 45 residents have been hospitalized, and Monday there were 22 patients with the coronavirus being treated at East Georgia Regional Medical Center; five of whom are on ventilators, he said.

With the free face mask distributions, all residents should be able to obtain a face mask, he said.

Burke said the mask distributions will continue.

“Squashing the Spread Bulloch” is a volunteer organization, formed by concerned citizens of Statesboro-Bulloch County. The mission of the group is to promote healthy behaviors related to the mitigation of COVID-19 in order to slow the spread in Bulloch County.

For more information on mask distribution times, to request masks for your business, or to participate as a volunteer, follow the “Squashing the Spread Bulloch” Facebook page.


Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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