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Makers & Masks: Covid-19 in Fashion, Culture, & Safety

This guide examines the phenomenon of fashion businesses and individual makers responding in days and weeks to address the dramatic shortage of personal protective equipment for frontline medical responders during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis

The need for PPE to face Covid-19

By the middle of March 2020, it was becoming clear that there was a shortage of personal protective equipment for first responders working with potential patients of the Novel Covid-19 virus.

Private Americans were stockpiling the important N-95 masks, which contain the medical-grade filter necessary to keep the virus at bay. Beyond this, the extreme infectiousness of the virus, visible in Wuhan Province, China, and Italy made it clear that current supplies of medical masks and other equipment were going to be inadequate for the impending crisis.

The American Center for Disease Control remained uncertain as to the effectiveness of non-N-95 masks in protecting people from the virus.

At the same time, calls were made for fashion businesses to switch their work to producing masks for the crisis.

By March ??, hospitals began sounding the alarm for more equipment, including individual and institutional pleas for American sewers to make masks to fill in the gaps between local supply and provider need.

At first there were only one or two hospital approved patterns that were circulated wildly. Within days tailors all over the country had responded with streamlined, optimized pattern revisions and donations of hundreds of masks to local hospitals.

Over the next few weeks, home sewing tutorials were created with many many pattern variations. Beside this, initiatives were begun as clearing houses, coordinating makers of masks with hospitals most in need of them.

On April ??, the CDC announced that home-sewing masks still provided some virus-prevention filtering. Additionally, areas with "Stay Home!" orders continued to recommend wearing some type of masks for anyone who had to travel outside their home.


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