Sangha member Leslie Van Gelder is friends with Jim Shames, the Medical Officer for Jackson County, who has mobilized the community to sew DIY face masks as protection from the spread of Covid-19.
Jim's expertise has been guiding our choices of patterns and fabric. Individuals are sharing materials (fabric, pipe cleaners, furnace filters and elastic), sewing masks at home and bringing them to Ashland Zen Center.
Once a week, Leslie picks up the completed masks and they are distributed by the Jackson County Emergency Operations Center to the many Jackson County institutions and individuals who need them.
DIY masks do not provide the same level of protection as N95 masks, but are still a recommended protection for EVERYONE.
The filter style fabric masks are made from two pieces of fabric, each 21 cm square. The pieces of fabric should be different so that the user can easily distinguish which side goes against their face. The fabric is sewn into a pocket shape, and a piece of furnace filter is put inside. A piece of pipe cleaner is sewn into the top to shape the mask close to your face. Elastic pieces 18 cm long are sewn into the sides as loops to go behind your ears.
Drop off finished masks at Ashland Zen Center, 740 Tolman Creek Road, and include a note with your name, address and phone number. Let someone know you have dropped masks off. They are gathered on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm.
The fabric tie style mask is made with four pieces of fabric: two pieces each 6" by 9", and two pieces each 2.5" by 40". This style is simple, and elastic is difficult to find... here is that tutorial video:
- Cotton fabric (prewashed)
- Furnace filters
- Elastic 1/4" wide or whatever is available
- Pipe cleaners
Supplies can be dropped off on the back porch of the zendo at 740 Tolman Creek Road, or inside on the table. The shoe rack outside provides some weather protection. Let someone know you have dropped supplies off. If you have questions about what exactly is needed, ask.
There are many ways you can help Leslie with this project. Ask her how! Completed fabric face masks are collected from Ashland Zen Center on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm, and taken to the Jackson County Emergency Operations Center on Wednesdays.
The most up-to-date recommedations from experts say wear a mask every time you go out. The Jackson County Covid-19 State of Emergency webpage has up to date information about recommendations for wearing masks.
Machine washing is optimal, and the material of your face mask will determine the temperature of the water. Fabric masks can be washed in the warmest possible water that the fabric will tolerate. Detergents with bleach-like compounds or other active ingredients should be used when washing masks. Those kill microbes more effectively than standard detergents.
The temperature should be at least 140' F.
You can also disinfect masks by ironing or putting them in an oven for 20 minutes at about 160' F.
If hand washing is your only option, lather the masks with soap and scrub them for at least 20 seconds with warm to hot water. Washing should be followed by hot air drying. Dry your mask on the highest possible heat the fabric will allow. Again, this will depend on what material was used to construct your mask.
Jeremy Howard, The Washington Post, March 28, 2020
When historians tally up the many missteps policymakers have made in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the senseless and unscientific push for the general public to avoid wearing masks should be near the top.
The evidence not only fails to support the push, it also contradicts it. It can take a while for official recommendations to catch up with scientific thinking. In this case, such delays might be deadly and economically disastrous. It’s time to make masks a key part of our fight to contain, then defeat, this pandemic. Masks effective at “flattening the curve” can be made at home with nothing more than a T-shirt and a pair of scissors. We should all wear masks — store-bought or homemade — whenever we’re out in public.
At the height of the HIV crisis, authorities did not tell people to put away condoms. As fatalities from car crashes mounted, no one recommended avoiding seat belts. Yet in a global respiratory pandemic, people who should know better are discouraging Americans from using respiratory protection.
Facing shortages of the N95 masks needed by health-care workers, the U.S. surgeon general announced on Feb. 29 that masks “are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus,” despite significant scientific evidence to the contrary. This is not just a problem in the United States: Even the World Health Organization says, “you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.”
There are good reasons to believe DIY masks would help a lot. Look at Hong Kong, Mongolia, South Korea and Taiwan, all of which have covid-19 largely under control. They are all near the original epicenter of the pandemic in mainland China, and they have economic ties to China. Yet none has resorted to a lockdown, such as in China’s Wuhan province. In all of these countries, all of which were hit hard by the SARS respiratory virus outbreak in 2002 and 2003, everyone is wearing masks in public. George Gao, director general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, stated, “Many people have asymptomatic or presymptomatic infections. If they are wearing face masks, it can prevent droplets that carry the virus from escaping and infecting others.”
My data-focused research institute, fast.ai, has found 34 scientific papers indicating basic masks can be effective in reducing virus transmission in public — and not a single paper that shows clear evidence that they cannot.
Studies have documented definitively that in controlled environments like airplanes, people with masks rarely infect others and rarely become infected themselves, while those without masks more easily infect others or become infected themselves.
Masks don’t have to be complex to be effective. A 2013 paper tested a variety of household materials and found that something as simple as two layers of a cotton T-shirt is highly effective at blocking virus particles of a wide range of sizes. Oxford University found evidence this month for the effectiveness of simple fabric mouth and nose covers to be so compelling they now are officially acceptable for use in a hospital in many situations. Hospitals running short of N95-rated masks are turning to homemade cloth masks themselves; if it’s good enough to use in a hospital, it’s good enough for a walk to the store.
The reasons the WHO cites for its anti-mask advice are based not on science but on three spurious policy arguments. First, there are not enough masks for hospital workers. Second, masks may themselves become contaminated and pass on an infection to the people wearing them. Third, masks could encourage people to engage in more risky behavior.
None of these is a good reason to avoid wearing a mask in public.
Yes, there is a shortage of manufactured masks, and these should go to hospital workers. But anyone can make a mask at home by cutting up a cotton T-shirt, tying it back together and then washing it at the end of the day. Another approach, recommended by the Hong Kong Consumer Council, involves rigging a simple mask with a paper towel and rubber bands that can be thrown in the trash at the end of each day.
It’s true that masks can become contaminated. But better a mask gets contaminated than the person who is wearing it. It is not hard to wash or dispose of a mask at the end of the day and then wash hands thoroughly to prevent a contaminated mask from spreading infection.
Finally, the idea that masks encourage risky behavior is nonsensical. We give cars anti-lock brakes and seat belts despite the possibility that people might drive more riskily knowing the safety equipment is there. Construction workers wear hard hats even though the hats presumably could encourage less attention to safety. If any risky behavior does occur, societies have the power to make laws against it.
Many authorities still advise only people with symptoms to wear masks. But this doesn’t help with a disease like covid-19, since a person who does not yet show symptoms can still be contagious. A study in Iceland, where there has been unprecedented levels of testing, found that “about half of those who tested positive [for covid-19] are nonsymptomatic,” according to Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, Thorolfur Gudnason. In fact, in early February, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci warned there was strong evidence that covid-19 spreads even among people without symptoms. If we all wear masks, people unknowingly infected with the coronavirus would be less likely to spread it.
I also have heard suggestions that widespread usage of masks in the West will be culturally impossible. The story of the Czech Republic debunks this notion. Social media influencers campaigning to encourage DIY mask creation catalyzed an extraordinary mobilization by nearly the whole population. Within three days, there were enough masks for everyone in the country, and most people were wearing them. This was an entirely grass-roots community effort.
When social distancing requirements forced a small bar in Prague to close, its owner, Štefan Olejár, converted Bar Behind the Curtain into a mask manufacturing facility. He procured sewing machines from the community and makes about 400 cotton masks per day. The bar employs 10 people, including a driver who distributes the masks directly to people who are not able to leave their homes.
There are “mask trees” on street corners around the country, where people hang up masks they have made so others can take them.
The most important message shared in the Czech Republic has been this: “My mask protects you; your mask protects me.” Wearing a mask there is now considered a prosocial behavior. Going outside without one is frowned on as an antisocial action that puts your community at risk. In fact, the community reaction has been so strong that the government has responded by making it illegal to go out in public without a mask.
When I first started wearing a mask in public, I felt a bit odd. But I reminded myself I’m helping my community, and I’m sure in the coming weeks people who don’t wear masks will be the ones who feel out of place. Now I’m trying to encourage everyone to join me — and to get their friends to wear masks, too — with a social media campaign around #masks4all.
Community use of masks alone is not enough to stop the spread. Restrictions on movement and commerce need to stay in place until hospital systems clearly are able to handle the patient load. Then, we need a rigorous system of contact tracing, testing and quarantine of those potentially infected.
Given the weight of evidence, it seems likely that universal mask wearing should be a part of the solution. Every single one of us can make it happen — starting today.