A Gwinnett-based medical company is partnering with the Georgia secretary of state’s office to provide thousands of free face masks to poll workers across the state.
The Marena Group, which typically produces compression garments used after surgeries, started producing reusable face masks in April. Most elective surgeries were been put on hold in the first weeks of the pandemic to make more medical resources available to coronavirus patients, causing a dip in demand for Marena’s typical product line. Once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending people wear masks in public, Marena added 50 workers and started production at its Lawrenceville facility.
Marena will provide 35,000 masks for poll workers and other elections officials throughout Georgia to use during in-person early voting and on Election Day June 9. Hand sanitizer will also be provided to elections workers courtesy of Pretoria Fields Collective, an Albany company whose ventures include hemp farming and a brewery. The partnership with the secretary of state’s office was announced Wednesday.
“We are doing everything in our power to ensure voters, poll workers and election officials stay safe while participating in this election during a pandemic,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a press release. “I am proud to get these critical masks and sanitizer from Georgia companies.”
The secretary of state’s office purchased the masks and sanitizer with federal funds received through the CARES Act, a financial relief package enacted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The secretary of state’s office still urges people to vote absentee in the primary in order to minimize person-to-person contact that could spread the virus, a spokesman said. The state sent absentee ballot applications to all registered Georgia voters in March in order to encourage voting by mail. Raffensperger has also authorized the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots, and many counties, including Gwinnett and Fulton, have installed them.
Early voting began Monday, with social distancing measures put into place at polling locations. Some polling places had fewer voting machines and poll workers than prior elections to allow for at least six feet of distance between people, and lines developed at multiple early voting locations.
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