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Masking for a second wave

COVID-19 has already hit New York City hard, but health officials warn that a second wave could possibly come this fall and winter that could mix with the flu for a deadly combination.

The Salvation Army of Greater New York (GNY) teamed up with HALOLIFE (, a maker of technologically advanced face masks. The partnership promises to bring additional protection to Salvation Army workers and the people they serve. The company helped the Army distribute 1,000 masks to homeless clients attending the soup kitchen as well as other people outside the GNY’s Divisional Headquarters in lower Manhattan.

Sarah Ciuba, an account coordinator at Rosica Communications, which represents HALO, said the company has scheduled two more mask distributions. The next one will be Oct. 29 in Newark, N.J., and will include the giveaway of 500 masks to children and their families at the Salvation Army’s Boys & Girls Club of Ironbound.

“In November, we expect to be doing a similar mask donation event with children at the Kroc Center in Camden, N.J.,” she said.

The first mask distribution on Aug. 10 occurred on Health Care for the Homeless Day, an annual observation of the National Association of Community Health Centers.


Masks of quality and quantity

Lieutenant Miguel Aguilera, the corps officer at the Army’s New York Temple Corps on West 14th Street in lower Manhattan, said his staff gave out 200 to 300 masks the day of the event—and continue to do so.

“We’re still doing it,” he said. “We give out masks every single day. People are worried about this ‘second wave.’ There is a lot of insecurity about what is going to happen in a few months. Manhattan is empty like I’ve never seen it before.

“We still have some masks, so we’re trying to give them to those homeless people who don’t have anything. We’re trying to provide the masks for them because they’re good quality.”

Leaders of HALO Life, based in Santa Rosa, Calif., created the HALOmask in New Zealand in 2016. The mask features nanofilters that “capture virtually all airborne pathogens and pollutants threatening a person’s health.”

Aguilera said the masks come in different sizes. While the extra-large and large sizes are gone, he still has medium and small sizes for children.

“The people come in asking for masks,” he said. “We know it is important so we continue to provide masks so the homeless can have those resources because it’s going to be hard for them to get them if we have a second wave.”


Needing more than masks

Meanwhile, Aguilera said COVID–19 has been “exhausting.” The corps, which serves hot meals Monday through Thursday, has seen the number of people seeking help double from 150 a day to 300.

There is also an increase in the need for emotional and spiritual care services. For example, Aguilera, who recently ministered to a homeless couple, didn’t see them for a while. The wife finally resurfaced to tell him her husband had died.

“She was just heartbroken,” he said. “That kind of emotional and spiritual care has been exhaustive and hard. It’s been rough.”

by Robert Mitchell

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