Crafters make masks to help in COVID-19 fight

Tribune-Star/Joseph C. GarzaCrafters’ compassion: This adult mask and child’s mask were made by customers on Tuesday at JoAnn Fabric and Craft in the business’ classroom.

With time to spare during the state’s two-week stay-home order, crafters are finding ways to help others on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic as the illness spreads.

A national shortage of protective surgical masks and N95-rated masks has prompted a do-it-yourself movement for face masks sewn and assembled from spare and recycled fabric, elastic and other materials.

“We’ve had tons of calls about making the masks because everyone is looking for elastic,” said Teresa Market, owner of Wabash Valley Fabrics on Wabash Avenue. “People are still making them. They are just resorting to tie straps instead of looping elastic over the ears.”

Some people with extra elastic in their home fabric stashes have donated the stretchy material for others to use, Market said, but she expects the shortage to continue as distributors close due to shelter-in-place orders nationwide.

Sales of fabric and other materials were brisk Tuesday, she said. The store is shutting down for two weeks, however, due to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s order Monday about non-essential businesses closing in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus.

“A lot of our customers are saying that we are an essential business – essential to their mental health,” Market said.

On the south side of the city, JoAnn Fabric and Craft also had brisk sales but had sold out of the thin elastic used.

“We’re donating fabric to people to make the masks,” said an employee. “Just about everyone who comes in is making them.”

Meanwhile, the efforts of the crafters may be well meant, but the masks will not stop the spread of COVID-19, a health officials says.

Roni Elder of the Vigo County Health Department said the homemade masks are being worn in addition to clinical masks used by healthcare workers to give longer life to the clinical masks.

But, Elder said, only the N95 masks are 95 percent effective in preventing inhalation of the COVID-19 virus.

She repeated the advice of state health officials who say only people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 should wear a face mask until being isolated in a hospital or at home. The patient does not need to wear a facemask while isolated.

“The role of face masks is for patient source control, to prevent contamination of the surrounding area when a person coughs or sneezes,” the CDC reports.

The CDC says people who are not sick do not need to wear a face mask unless caring for someone who is ill.

Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or at lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter at TribStarLisa.

Lisa Trigg has been a reporter at the Tribune-Star since 2009. With more than 30 years of newspaper experience, she now covers general news with a focus on crime and courts.

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