BUTTE, Mont. — U.S. Forest Service officials began distributing millions of surgical masks to protect the most vulnerable tree populations from coronavirus.
“Frankly, the pandemic caught us off-guard and we are sorry to say we had to scramble to catch up to demand,” lead agent Frank Foster said. “We were stocked for the flu season, of course, but the coronavirus added a burden we couldn’t handle right away.
“But we put our heads together, pulled out all the stops, and started contacting suppliers the moment we realized we were going to be short-handed,” Foster continued. “As it turns out, we’ve managed to restock fairly quickly, given the demand on these masks around the country.”
Foster said that he expected all trees needed to be protected from the virus would be fitted with masks by the end of the month.
“It’s going to take a lot of work, and we’ve got a lot of people in the field on overtime right now, which will be a budgetary concern later this fiscal year, but this has got to be done,” Foster insisted. “The death rate among trees will be horrendous without these life-savers, I can tell you that.”