To help ensure residents across the state have access to cloth masks to reduce the spread of coronavirus, Lee announced May 5 the state has secured a partnership with Refro Corporation to provide more than five million cloth masks.

Distribution to county health department across the state has already begun, Lee said; however, local departments have not yet announced how masks will be distributed to the public.

“Any Tennessean can receive those masks free of charge at your local health department,” Lee said.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommend the use of cloth masks when out in public to prevent the spread of coronavirus from those who may not be aware they are infected. Social distancing, including staying at least 6 feet apart from others, should still continue even when wearing face masks.

The use of cloths masks is recommended over that of respirator masks, the supply of which should be preserved to ensure there are enough for medical professionals.

Find more information from the CDC on cloth masks here.

“I just want to again say thank you to Tennesseans for your efforts,” Lee said. “They are paying off, and they must continue as we begin to move into this next phase of reopening businesses and folks [are] moving about a little bit more. Social distancing works, and it’s more important now than ever as Tennesseans open their businesses safely [and] take the 'Tennessee Pledge.' And if Tennesseans will continue to practice their social distancing habits and measures, then, we can continue to move forward in the ways that we attack COVID-19 and to control the spread of this virus throughout our state.”