In a time of uncertainty, a unique public-private partnership came together to create an initiative that provided over 3 million free masks to members of our community in a time of need

News, Coronavirus Updates | 3 years ago

3 Million Masks: Exceeding All Expectations to Serve Our Communities in a Time of Need

In a time of uncertainty, a unique public-private partnership came together to create an initiative that provided over 3 million free masks to members of our community in a time of need. Learn more about the success of this important initiative and why you should hold onto your face mask going forward.


It’s been a long road.

Beginning when public health officials first declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, Atrium Health knew we would have a significant role to play in keeping our teammates, our communities, and ourselves safe from the dangers COVID-19.   

As we learned more about this mysterious new virus and how to best protect ourselves from exposure, we recognized just how effective face masks would be in combating COVID-19 while we patiently waited for an effective vaccine. The teams at Atrium Health quickly came together to think through our options and how we could band together with partners throughout the state to pull resources together in an effort to address this head-on.

And just like that, the Million Mask Initiative was born.

Free masks for our community

As just one of many ways we were able to address the needs of our communities throughout the pandemic, we established a unique public-private partnership in partnership with government organizations and a broad group of businesses to launch our Million Mask Initiative. This new cause was organized with the specific intent of providing 1 million free face masks to members of our community with a heavy emphasis on high-vulnerability zip codes and local businesses.

“When we launched the public-private partnership to distribute masks in our community, we knew we couldn’t do it alone,” says Matthew Roden, director of Community Engagement and Corporate Responsibility at Atrium Health. “So we quickly mobilized into strategy groups which helped identify access points or communities that might benefit from masking.”

Just a few days from when Atrium Health President and CEO Eugene A. Woods announced the new initiative at a press conference with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, the first masks were being distributed to the community. Two short months later, we surpassed our initial goal of distributing 1 million masks throughout the Charlotte region. In fact, instead of 1 million masks we were able to successfully distribute 2 million masks by November 2020.

Fast forward to June of 2021 and we’re celebrating yet another milestone. That’s right, we’ve exceeded every expectation and have successfully distributed triple the amount of the original goal with distributing 3 million masks to our communities. That’s enough face masks to fill every seat at Bank of America Stadium nearly 40 times at full capacity!

“Through these targeted strategies we were able to reach small businesses, daycares, faith communities, local universities, gyms, breweries, neighborhood associations and much more,” says Roden. “We even mobilized teams to manage the footprint beyond Mecklenburg County. It was an all hands-on deck initiative which drove results.”

Results that speak for themselves

As the Million Mask Initiative gained traction and masks were being distributed through a wide network of community partners, the impact of more people wearing masks became evident. In September 2020, just 2 weeks after the state mask mandate was declared in North Carolina, we saw total COVID-19 cases drop 21% and the percent positive rate drop 10% (from 7.7% to 6.9%). In Mecklenburg County specifically, where the Million Mask Initiative a primary focus, we have saw total daily positive test rates drop by over 60% and percent positive rates drop by over 50%.  

“It was exciting to see statistical data coming in that showed the correlation of our masking initiative in the Charlotte area. We could see the more masks that were distributed, the fewer positive cases were bring reported,” said David Callaway, MD, chief of crisis operations at Atrium Health. “I truly believe one of the reasons Charlotte wasn’t impacted as much as we saw in other parts of the county was because of the effectiveness of the Million Mask Initiative.”

Stop! Don’t throw your mask out just yet

Now that vaccines are widely available to those ages 12 and over, we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Businesses are opening back up. Schools are offering in-person learning. People are planning their next big trip. Cases in the United State are finally leaning downward. But that doesn’t mean you should throw away your face mask just yet.  

If you don’t meet the below requirements, the CDC outlines that you are still expected to wear a face mask:

  • You are NOT fully vaccinated. In general, people considered fully vaccinated are as follows:
    • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer or Moderna vaccines), or
    • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine)
  • Children who don’t meet the age requirements for vaccine eligibility
  • If you’re in a healthcare setting; this includes healthcare workers, patients and visitors
    • [In accordance with the CDC and the state of North Carolina, Atrium Health will continue to require a face mask at each of our locations regardless of vaccination status]
  • If you have a condition or are taking medications that weaken your immune system, you may NOT be fully protected even if you are fully vaccinated
    • Talk to your healthcare provider; Even after vaccination, you may need to continue taking all precautions
  • If you travel, you will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation

“As far reaching as the impacts of COVID-19 have been on our community, there are two simple solutions that allow us to get through this,” said Callaway. “The first is masking. For the price of a cup of coffee we can save lives. And the second is vaccination. Vaccines are the way we can get out of this pandemic.”

If you still haven’t received your vaccine, it’s not too late. Atrium Health continues to offer appointments daily at different locations across the state. It’s easy and takes less than 30 minutes. Do your part to help restore a safe and healthy community for us all! #ThisIsMyShot

For more information about vaccine scheduling, locations and commonly asked questions, visit