Free masks distributed by Everett have a QR code printed on the inside to bring people to COVID-19 resources on the city website.

In the final weeks of 2020, Everett residents received a surprise gift from the city in their mailboxes: a pair of reusable, washable cloth face masks.

The city of nearly 50,000 residents was able to distribute a pair of masks to 20,000 homes, according to Mayor Carlo DeMaria, and has been fielding requests for more through social media accounts and 311. Municipal departments are also able to pass them out as needed.

“When we first had the mask mandate [due to the COVID-19 pandemic], we had seniors saying masks were being price-gouged and were hard to get, and at the beginning of the crisis, there wasn’t even enough personal protective equipment for hospitals or first responders,” DeMaria said. “We have this CARES Act money from the federal government, and one of the biggest things people need besides rent or food is PPE.”

Everett has been among the state’s hardest-hit communities during the pandemic. At the turn of the new year, the city was seeing COVID test positivity rates of 12 to 13%, according to Department of Public Health data, making it a high-risk community.

The free Everett masks are printed with city branding, and a QR code on the inside, when scanned by a smartphone, brings people to the COVID resources section of the city website.

“Use of QR codes has been so popular, we said let’s include it, since most people have smartphones and getting COVID-related information to them is getting so important, and we are trying to keep that as up-to-date as possible,” DeMaria said. “My kids are always saying, ‘You need to put QR codes on everything. It’s what everyone is using.’”

The masks were produced by the local screen printing company Universal Screening Studio.

“We were able to use a local business that does embroidery and silk screening for a very reasonable price,” the mayor said.

“Little gestures of niceness go a long way and are good for morale,” DeMaria said, adding that it’s another way that residents know that their local government was thinking of them.

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