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Grant for Masks Clears Up Communication Challenges

September 24, 2020

Brandy Powers with Page County Public Health models a prototype of a clear mask she helped develop and distribute thanks to an Iowa West Foundation grant. The masks will be available beginning Oct. 1.

Sometimes one person is all it takes to get the ball rolling. Or in this case, the needle threading.

Terri Ann Fetz on Shenandoah was frustrated. With more people wearing masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, her world grew quieter. As a member of the deaf community, she relies on her ability to read lips. Without that form of communication, she can’t connect with those around her.

Fetz reached out to her local health department via Facebook to see what could be done about it.

On the receiving end of the message was Brandy Powers, an assistant administrator for the Page County Iowa Public Health Department. After nearly nine years in public health- much of it focused around tobacco use prevention efforts- Powers has developed a fondness for finding solutions to problems.

“If I can help one person, I’m absolutely overjoyed,” she said. “I love what I do.”

Powers remembered seeing an article on clear “face-view” masks that both reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and yet allow for lip-reading at the same time. She then connected with a local quilting shop, and the owner agreed to help with production.

Seeing how the grant fit into the Iowa West Foundation’s healthy families portfolio and specifically its efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion for people with disabilities, Powers applied for and received a $1,400 grant to create and distribute clear masks.

“I was ecstatic to find out the idea was actually going to happen,” Powers said.  “Public Health over the last few years has started focusing on health equality and funding gaps; this project fit right in there.”

The plan is to distribute more than 1,000 masks at high traffic locations in the community such as gas stations, grocery stores, major retailers, banks and governmental locations beginning Oct. 1. Page County also partnered with the Iowa School for the Deaf, which will receive 500 masks for staff employees.

Fetz was excited to learn that her efforts will help so many, and considers it a win-win for communication and safety.

“I feel that if individuals have this kind of mask, a hearing impaired person like myself can read their lips without their having to remove their mask,” she said.

For more information:

Brandy Powers

Page County Public Health
O 712-850-1211
C 712-246-8224

Written by Nicole Lindquist, Director of Communications

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