Workarounds for the face masks shortage during COVID-19


Credit...Thomas Wimberly for Amplifier

A design by Thomas Wimberly for “Global Forefront,” an open call for messages that promote health and public safety in the time of Covid-19.

Like it or not, the current coronavirus pandemic is an event that will go down in history. Years from now, people will research and read about the current events that we are living through, and hopefully learn from the mistakes that humanity has made in efforts to control the virus.

With a variety of memorable aspects, such as the scarcity of toilet paper, the resurgence in the use of hand sanitizer, or the whole quarantine experience itself, one can only wonder what will be the first thing to come to  mind when COVID-19 is mentioned years from now.

The most interesting component of the current pandemic in my opinion, is the face mask. While their effectiveness against the spread of the coronavirus is debatable, they have still seemed to rise in popularity, and become a symbol of our current life in times of social distancing.

The most effective face masks are the official N95 respirators that are typically used by those in the medical field. Just like many other medical and sanitation supplies, these were purchased from stores in a panic, leaving hospitals and those who really need the masks unable to obtain them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention actually advise against the general public wearing these masks, as they are more essential for medical professionals, who are actually treating those with the virus, to wear. However, this has not put a stop to people coming up with their own solutions to at least make themselves feel more safe.

N95 Respirators and Surgical Masks (Face Masks) | FDA
A N95 respirator mask

One organization in Cincinnati called Sew Masks 4 Cincy was organized to help produce and donate hand made masks to local hospitals, police, and other frontline facilities.The organization started as a small idea on March 20, 2020, but has since increased to 6000 people who have donated almost 7500 masks.

Larger corporations, such as New Balance, have shifted gears from making shoes to masks in an effort to free up more N95 respirators for medical professionals. Using the same fabrics  and machinery that would typically be used for footwear, New Balance has made and donated over 100,000 masks. (I watched a pretty interesting video on this here, courtesy of Business Insider)

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The New Balance face mask

This video also compares the big corporation of New Balance to a smaller business. Eclipse International is a mattress company based in North Brunswick, a township in New Jersey. Having lost business from the pandemic, they decided to use their facilities to create and donate 38,000 masks to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Even high end fashion companies such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and Chanel are using their expertise to help ease the need for face masks. Pretty much every business that has access to the necessary textiles, but has been rendered unessential due to the virus is helping out through producing and donating face masks. An article I read from CNN style gives detail of fashion designer Christian Siriano and his efforts to make face masks to help prevent the spread in New York.

Regardless of how effective the face mask is when worn by the average person, these production efforts of these corporations show that everyone is in this fight against COVID-19 together. These efforts not only free up supplies for medical professionals, but have also kept many people, who would otherwise be out of a job, making masks and supporting the cause to flatten the curve.