KENNETT SQUARE — Chester County officials Thursday afternoon launched a new program aimed at assisting local businesses and restaurants by providing financial relief and giving business owners the tools to improve consumer confidence during the pandemic.

Called "Simple Ask: Wear a Mask," the campaign will directly support local commerce by not only providing funding, but free toolkits including 10,000 masks, signage, and other messaging. The public health campaign was launched during a free flu vaccine clinic that registered and served almost 700 Chester County residents in a socially distanced setting at Kennett High School.

Yesterday, the Chester County commissioners approved more than $28 million in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) funding that will support $10 million for Chester County public schools, $3.5 million for local non-profits, $10 million for child care assistance for families, and $5 million for organizations that provide child care.

“As the strongest economy in Pennsylvania, supporting the livelihoods of thousands of workers and their families, we are determined to control and even reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the flu this fall with the best tools available right now: face masks and funding,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz. “We cannot waiver and, in fact, must escalate our efforts during this critical time for restoring public health and economic well-being.”

Leaders of Chester County's chambers of commerce were given face masks and signage to distribute to small business employers, including appreciation stickers. Street banners will also be posted in Chester County boroughs and the City of Coatesville with lawn signs displayed at public buildings and major businesses.

The commissioners also announced direct funding for eligible chambers of commerce throughout the County, with grants totaling $150,000 to help them carry out their support of local businesses.

“This is the time to double down on our efforts, and Chester County is offering the resources to do it,” said Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell. “The World Health Organization has reported that worldwide circulation of influenza has been lower than expected so far, and the trend is largely attributable to social distancing and hygiene protocols implemented during COVID-19. With health care personnel working at capacity and infection testing focused on COVID-19, we cannot take unnecessary risks.”

County Commissioner Michelle Kichline said challenges for small businesses and restaurants will be greater in the coming months as colder weather sets in.

“We’re also facing more complicated diagnoses, with symptoms that can appear similar between COVID-19 and the flu," Kichline said. "That is why our messaging is friendly but firm. Simple Ask: Wear a Mask.”

Steve Plaugher, executive director of the Downingtown-Thorndale Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the toolkit will go a long way in increasing consumer confidence.

"In Chester County and our region, consumer confidence is at a low because people are afraid to go out to have a dinner or visit a business," he said. "But I think that the steps we are taking here today along with the steps the governor is taking will improve consumer confidence and hopefully we will turn the corner."

Businesses, nonprofits and other organizations can participate in the “Simple Ask: Wear a Mask” campaign by contacting their local chamber of commerce for toolkits that include a limited number of branded “Simple Ask” face masks available on a first come, first served basis. Plus 10,000 free disposable face masks, free “Simple Ask: Wear a Mask” business signage, window decals, posters and customer appreciation stickers. Corporate sponsors that would like to contribute free face masks to According to the Centers for Disease Control, influenza activity begins to increase in October, with up to 56 million flu illnesses reported last flu season that began in October 2019. While the flu is a respiratory virus that is separate from COVID-19, public health officials are urging the use of face masks to limit the circulation of both viruses and reduce the risk of a double epidemic.

Chester County residents and businesses are encouraged to reach out to the county at business@chesco.org.

To access the “Simple Ask: Wear a Mask” toolkit with graphics that can be downloaded, visit https://chesco.org/simpleask.

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