There’s necessary fear about the stability of the nation these days as COVID-19 continues to impact nearly every facet of life. But that anxiety has motivated some people to get involved in whatever way they know how, including getting creative like the Ithaca Mask Makers.
The group is the brainchild of Adrienne Huffman, a local 30 year old finishing her degree at Ithaca College and working for Cornell University’s Outdoor Education program. She posted on the Ithaca sub-Reddit page over the weekend gauging interest in a project where locals could use their skills to help with the growing chance of a shortage, one of likely many other similar efforts that will pop up going forward as more and more people become aware of the issue and word begins to spread.
Huffman said since the Reddit post, she’s heard back from about 20 people willing to be part of the chain to help create the masks. A single mask, she said, can take about 15-20 minutes each to make, so they are trying to find more creative ways to create them while adhering to an assembly line mentality, hoping that will be more efficient than each person making single masks by themselves. The masks will be made from fabric and will be available to anyone who wants one.
“I’ve been pretty humbled by the response,” she said, emphasizing that all those who have signed up deserve credit and that she’s simply good at organizing resources. “We’re all coordinating this endeavor. The idea came when I saw Governor Cuomo put out a tweet a couple days ago asking people to get creative and see who could fill the gaps of the medical needs. [...] My sister and my mom were interested right away, but then I posted on Reddit to see if anybody wanted to donate fabric or skills or anything and the post on Reddit was honestly the biggest hit that I got. I’m still getting replies from people who want to help from that.”
Of course, they also have to do so without human contact, as is one of the main priorities Huffman has set forth.
“That’s why I wanted to reach out to a lot of people, because if we can get more hands on deck we can make it a more operationalized endeavor,” she said.
People who are interested in receiving masks, or interested in getting involved with the mask makers, should contact Huffman at email@example.com. At some point, she would also like to attract some people who could help sew gowns for healthcare workers if those are needed at that time too.
“I've always been inspired by what can happen when groups of people come together to accomplish something important,” Huffman said. “A group with a focused purpose becomes greater than the sum of its parts, and this group is no different. We have identified a need and we are committed to doing our part to address that need. I can't, in good conscience, take credit for what's happening here because I am not doing this alone.”
Huffman said she hasn’t reached out to local hospitals or nursing homes yet about sending the masks to them for use. She said the idea and goal is not to replace the N-95 masks, which are indeed in high demand by healthcare workers, but to increase the overall supply so that people who do want to wear a mask, either professionally or personally, can do so without lowering the N-95 supply for people who are actually required to use them, like first responders or healthcare workers.
“The shortage is impending, and hospitals and medical staff are already having to ration their masks,” Huffman said. “These masks are not a replacement for those medical-grade masks, they’re just a way for people to prolong the life of those medical grade masks [supplies]. It would just act as an extra barrier [...] prolonging the life of the supplies that we do have.”