Angelenos rally to make protective masks as coronavirus spreads

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When Westwood resident Rachel Judd first took up sewing as part of her live-action theatre hobby, she had no idea she’d one day use her skills to save lives.

As the coronavirus pandemic increased in scope and drove facial masks and coverings into scarcity, Judd found herself ditching the costumes and putting her sewing machine to work making masks.

“I started seeing people post call-to-arms on social media, saying that hospitals were so desperate for PPE that even homemade cloth masks were starting to be used,” Judd said. “And then I saw people post pictures of themselves making their own masks. I was looking for a way to contribute during this crisis, and thought, ‘Well, that’s something I could do.'”

Healthcare officials have warned that protective gear for both medical personnel and ordinary Angelenos is in critically short supply due to panic-buying and high demand.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday that 400 garment and apparel manufacturers have pledged to soon make about 2 million cloth masks per week for essential workers, such as grocery store employees, in an attempt to protect them from the coronavirus.

Demand for facial coverings will likely increase, however, after Garcetti advised Angelenos to start wearing any kind of protective face covering when going out. Even scarves or other clothing items reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Garcetti said.

“I know it will look surreal. We’re going to have to get used to seeing each other like this,” Garcetti said as he put on a black cloth mask during his daily coronavirus briefing.

Until medical equipment needs are fully met, hundreds of Angelenos have connected with local hospitals, such as Cedars-Sinai, to donate home-made masks. Barbara Ferrer, head of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said Thursday that residents can follow instructions online, instead of purchasing masks.

“They’re very simple to make. There’s nothing fancy about them,” Ferer said. “There isn’t a single person in the general public who needs an N95 mask.”

Those more advanced masks should only be used by healthcare professionals.

People and businesses that can offer medical supplies and masks are asked to email LoVLA@portla.org, or sign up through the LA Protects manufacturing initiative website that Garcetti announced last week.

“I know people are scared and worried right now, and with good cause. Part of why I decided to make masks was my way of handling that fear, and looking for a way to help my local community.” Judd said. “When you focus on a project, something that takes up a lot of time and attention and that you know will help someone, that makes the fear and worry just a little bit less.

Los Angeles County coronavirus cases surged past the 4,000 mark today, while health officials reported another 13 deaths, bringing the county’s total to 78 and increased the local mortality rate to 1.9 percent.

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