Members of West Hartford’s Community Emergency Response Team distributed N95 masks during a drive-through event Tuesday afternoon, and a second distribution is planned for Saturday, Jan. 8, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
By Ronni Newton
A steady stream of vehicles wound through the former St. Brigid School property at 100 Mayflower Street on Tuesday afternoon, stopping in front of the building where members of West Hartford’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), clad in neon vests, handed out packages of N95 masks.
“It’s been very steady,” said Owen Kutscher, an emergency management specialist with the town who is also one of the leaders of CERT.
The volunteer group, which formed and began training in the spring and summer of 2021 in order to assist the town’s first responders, has proven extremely valuable in the distribution of the 230,000 N95 masks West Hartford received from the state.
The allocation arrived last Thursday, and within a few hours there were 10 CERT members on site at the former St. Brigid School to unload the cartons and stack them in one of the classrooms, where they will be stored until distributed.
“They’re our go-to town volunteer group,” Kutscher said. Other than a few police officers, CERT members handled the entire distribution of the masks.
Bob McCue, deputy director of West Hartford’s Office of Emergency Management, and also a CERT leader, said there were about 900 vehicles that came through the site Tuesday, and approximately 4,000 masks were distributed. “CERT has been such an incredible help to the town,” he said.
Residents were grateful for the free masks, which provide more effective protection from COVID-19 than either cloth or surgical masks.
While N95 masks have also been given to the schools, and requested by town businesses for their employees, there are plenty more. “We definitely will do more distributions,” McCue said. The St. Brigid School property – which the town purchased several months ago and plans to eventually utilize for a community and cultural center – will likely be used for any daytime distribution events, but because there is limited lighting in the parking lot there may be an evening event at Town Hall as well, he said. Some of the masks are also being given to the schools in town.
The town announced Friday that a distribution will take place on Saturday, Jan. 8, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the 100 Mayflower Street site. They ask that no one arrive before 10 a.m.
Businesses can continue to request N95 masks for their employees via this form, and they will be notified when the masks are ready for pick-up. Anyone with difficulty arranging for pick-up can email [email protected].
The town also received a limited supply of COVID-19 rapid test kits that are being provided to residents who are experiencing symptoms and have no other access to testing. The distribution – intended for the most at-risk population – was announced Monday night, and all 1,000 tests were requested within a few hours.
McCue said those who registered to receive test kits will be notified by email on Wednesday with details about where the tests can be picked up or when they will be delivered.
The town also received a supply of test kits on Tuesday for public and private school students and staff and childcare providers that will be distributed according to guidance from the state.
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