RAVENA — A Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Middle School teaching assistant began making masks from home for local healthcare workers in the last three weeks due to rising demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The masks are surgical covers that are made of 100 percent cotton. Meant to be placed over a healthcare or essential worker’s N95 respirator mask, Linda O’Brien said, “The masks I’ve been making won’t prevent anyone from getting the virus but it’s an additional tie-on barrier. I’ve made close to 100 masks now.”
When asked what inspired her to make the masks, O’Brien said, “I have a friend who’s an ER [Emergency Room] nurse at the MidHudson Regional Hospital who posted online about how they were desperately looking for masks. I felt the desperation in her post and I then saw another post that said you could make cloth masks. I looked up some instructions and I got back to my friend about if I can do this for her and what dimensions she’d need. She said yes.”
O’Brien added that her quilting and sewing background as well as owning many fabrics also empowered her. “I then made a sort of assembly line at home and it would take me about half an hour to cut out the fabric and put it together to make each mask,” she said. “My sister-in-law, Karen Waddingham, who’s a nurse in the [RCS] Middle School also cut fabric and sent them to me. I have another friend who helped order supplies to help me continue making the masks.”
She brought up that since she has muscular dystrophy and her family encouraged her to stay home, making the masks has kept her productive.
The masks have since been distributed to healthcare and essential workers across the Capital District. “For me personally, it’s made me feel like I can help in some way and others like nurses have been thankful because it gives them a bit of peace of mind to have the extra mask even though it won’t prevent the disease’s spread entirely,” she said. “The masks come in different colored prints too and sometimes it’s nice to be just a little cheerful and not always everything looking so institutional.”
She added that the masks were sewn with green thread, which she believes is a color of hope and springtime.
O’Brien’s efforts were given a shout-out on the RCS school district’s Facebook page on Thursday, April 2 which elicited positive reactions from the public. “I was completely humbled and overwhelmed,” O’Brien said. “I never anticipated that kind of response in all honesty. … I kind of fly under the radar so this has been kind of wild.”
Looking ahead, O’Brien expressed optimism in making more masks as more requests pour in and as long as she has enough fabric to work with. “This took me out of a slump and gave me the motivation and drive to want to continue. I still have more fabric and I’m going to keep going,” she concluded.