At the end of 2020, Nassau County Legislator Debra Mulé, of Freeport, joined the student group Long Island Laboring Against Covid-19 to donate 15,000 masks and other personal protective equipment to the Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside.
A few days later, Mulé got a call from the hospital, saying that while the PPE kits and hospital gowns were appreciated, the masks could not be used because they were not medical grade.
Mulé asked LILAC if she could distribute the masks to the communities that she represents, and after receiving the OK, Mulé and her team went out on Jan. 8, 10 and 11 and handed out the masks to senior center members, first responders and other at-risk groups in Freeport, Baldwin, Rockville Centre and South Hempstead.
“When the hospital couldn’t use the masks, that was a door closing, but when one door closes, a window opens,” Mulé said. “In this case, it was several windows opening.”
During the three-day distribution, Mulé and her team gave out masks to the Freeport, Baldwin and South Nassau fire departments, the Freeport and Baldwin American Legion posts, the Freeport Police Department, Freeport Housing Authority, St. Christopher’s Parish Outreach, Oceanside Senior Center and Hispanic Brotherhood Senior Center.
Mulé hoped to distribute more masks to the fire departments in Merrick and Oceanside.
Freeport Police Chief Mike Smith said he was thankful for the donation. “We are grateful for the donation of surgical masks from LILAC to the members of the Freeport Police Department,” Smith said. “The hundreds of masks that we have received will help to ensure the safety of all of our officers during the current pandemic.”
Mulé had previously worked with LILAC to deliver 10,000 masks to the Freeport School District over the summer.
Sabrina Guo, 14, of Oyster Bay Cove, founded LILAC to help first responders during the height of the pandemic last spring. Since then, the organization has donated thousands of masks and PPE to hospitals, first responders, essential workers, school districts and communities across Long Island.
During the summer mask donation event in Freeport, Guo said she wanted LILAC to focus part of its distributions to communities of color, which have been hit harder by the pandemic than neighboring areas. Minority-majority communities like Freeport, Hempstead and Valley Stream continue to have the highest Covid-19 positive cases in Nassau County, according to the County Department of Health.
Freeport, the county’s third-hardest-hit community, had more than 3,600 cases confirmed as of Jan. 13.
While the infection rate dropped over the summer, with only about 100 cases confirmed every month, the rate has continued to increase in recent weeks and months, with the latest trend showing nearly 300 new cases confirmed each week in the village.
Mulé said she hoped more PPE and social distancing would help curb the numbers, as well as the distribution of vaccines to first responders and older seniors. “We have to remain vigilant,” she said. “We need to stay home as much as possible and do our part to overcome this pandemic.”
Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy agreed, and said the village was doing all it could to provide PPE to residents.
On Christmas Eve, Leon Sanchez, of Newman Realty, in Malverne, acquired 24,000 masks from an anonymous donor to give to Freeport. Kennedy said some of the masks have been distributed to the fire and police departments, as well as senior homes in the village.
Like the thousands of other masks that the village has already given out since April, residents can pick up additional masks at Village Hall and the Freeport Recreation Center. Homebound residents can call Village Hall to schedule a mask delivery.
Village police officers who patrol the village are offering free masks to residents and visitors.
“Along with the masks, we have gloves and hand sanitizers that we can give out,” Kennedy said. “Whatever our residents need, we have them.”