Material Matters: Mask Up RI Strives to Make Face Covers a Must-Wear Accessory

A joint social media campaign aims to retool how we feel about masking in public


Remember when a face mask was just for surgeons, superheroes, and bandits? In a recent update on the State's Response to COVID-19 by Governor Raimondo and Dr. Alexander-Scott, it was recommended that Rhode Islanders don a cloth that covers the nose and mouth whenever in public. The press release states that this could be sewn by hand or improvised from household items such as scarves, T-shirts, or bandanas.

For most of us, wearing a mask feels as awkward as it does stifling. To encourage citizens to not only follow directives but feel less uneasy about this “next normal” accessory, StyleWeek Northeast, Rhode Island Commerce, and the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau (PWCVB) have teamed up for a social media initiative. The movement, called Mask Up RI, is being conducted on both Instagram (@mask_up_ri) and Twitter (@mask_ri) and focuses on non-medical grade masks and face coverings, as medical grade equipment should be used solely by health care workers. 

“Rhode Island Commerce brought to my attention the need to get more people to create and wear some sort of face mask or covering,” said StyleWeek Founder Rosanna Ortiz, who is spearheading the initiative. “Mask Up RI is a way for me to use my public relations and fashion background to spread awareness in Rhode Island.”

People are being asked to post a picture of themselves wearing a mask or facial covering, tag Mask Up RI, and challenge three friends to do the same. Since its April 9 launch, the Instagram account already features photos of prominent Rhode Islanders, including Raimondo, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, and Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon.

“As Rhode Islanders, we all need to do our part to keep each other safe and healthy. Sewing face masks, or using other protective face coverings, helps to impede the spread of germs while conserving valuable medical supplies for healthcare providers,” said Heather Evans, chief marketing officer at Rhode Island Commerce.

“My industry has been among the hardest hit,” said Kristen Adamo, PWCVB president and CEO. “We fully support any initiative that will save the lives of Rhode Islanders and bring our economy back.”

Rhode Island Commerce and the PWCVB are promoting the initiative through the Instagram handles @visitrhodeisland and @GoProvidence and Twitter handles @RITourism and @ProvidenceRI, respectively. 


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