Over the last two weeks, a group of Benicians has been sewing and delivering masks for healthcare workers who serve on the front line fighting the coronavirus pandemic here in the Bay Area.
In an email today, Bodil Fox reported, “To date, we have distributed 1,234 masks date from 37 mask makers to 22 medical facilities.”
Those numbers are supplemented by some who are delivering masks directly to healthcare workers who are family or friends.
On April 1, Larnie Fox wrote that the group had 50+ members on the mask project email list. One of the group’s biggest contributors is Ruby Wallis, who has been sewing large quantities of masks.
The mask project is nicely described in an April 1 Benicia Herald article by editor Galen Kusic…
Benicia residents spearhead effort to make masks for health care workers
Galen Kusic, Editor
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to engulf the world, U.S. and Calif., people are getting creative to protect health care workers and flatten the curve. As of press time Tue., there were at least 183,532 cases across 50 states and more than 3,600 deaths attributed to the respiratory illness. In Calif. alone, the state announced 6,932 cases with 150 deaths.
Locally in Benicia, Bodil and her husband Larnie Fox have displayed ingenuity through artistic creativity and networking by making hand-sewn masks to help health care workers.
The project started when Bodil met her neighbor, Marcella Spurgeon, a nurse at Kaiser Vallejo, on a walk on March 20. Marcella told her how she and other nurses were working without any sort of protection. Bodil (a textile artist) wondered if hand-sewn masks would help, and Marcella’s response was an enthusiastic, “YES!”
Bodil started sewing masks, and soon heard that her friend Ruby Wallis was “making masks, full tilt.” Ruby had designed a simple, easily-made mask that was big enough to cover an N95, thus extending its life. Bodil and Larnie made a video explaining Ruby’s technique: youtu.be/Uyh6iAKqrao, which has over 2,000 views on Facebook and Youtube.
The emails, texts, social media posts and phone calls exploded after Councilmember Steve Young posted information about the project on Facebook. Seeing that Bodil was swamped, Larnie began helping her with the project full time.
“We are fielding requests for hundreds of masks at this point,” said Larnie.
As of March 31, there have been 460 hand-sewn masks made with 25 mask makers working. They are being distributed to Benicia nurses working at Kaiser Vallejo, Oakland Children’s Hospital, Alta Bates Berkeley, Kaiser San Rafael and to several other health care centers.
“I have brought in masks for Labor and Delivery and the nurses and docs are so appreciative!” said Alta Bates midwife Lior Mayer. “It is so heartwarming, and very useful. Everyone loves knowing they are extending the lives of the ONE mask we are given per shift, and also appearing more friendly to our patients with these beautiful fabric masks on. Everyone sends a big thank you!”
The masks are washed and sterilized before using. The mask makers are very aware of the fact that these masks do not replace real PPE (personal protective equipment), but as nurses are saying, they are better than nothing.
“We are going the unofficial route – getting them to nurses that work at these facilities who distribute them to their co-workers,” said Larnie. “They report that the people who get them are really grateful, and our homemade masks are most definitely being used and may be saving lives.”
The project is seeking donations of 100 percent cotton fabric, at least 11×16 inches, 1/4 inch elastic, rubbing alcohol for sterilizing masks and supplies and people who have sewing machines and can sew. They encourage any frontline workers who need masks to let the project know. If you live nearby and would like to help by sewing, donating materials or identifying needs, please contact the project at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those that do not have this capability, people are urged to find somehow or someway to help health care workers or those in need during the crisis.
“The need is real,” said Larnie. “We know these masks are not ideal, but they are much better than the nothing that is currently available.”