The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends wearing masks in public places to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The masks are an extra step — in addition to social distancing and washing hands.
“Masks are not a substitute for social distancing,” said Lea Crown, Meriden health and human services director. “Everyone should still aim to maintain the six foot distance from others, as well as practice other public health prevention efforts such as regular hand washing.”
Cloth masks were recommended for general public use, as medical masks are in short supply and should be reserved for healthcare workers and first responders, the CDC said.
“Masks help as they reduce the droplets becoming airborne of the person wearing the mask, especially those who may cough or sneeze,” said Shane Lockwood, director of public health with the Plainville-Southington Regional Health District. The health district also covers Middlefield.
The CDC has provided instructions for how to make different types of masks, including no-sew ones which only require cloth and rubber bands or hair ties.
Crown said when making her own masks, rubber bands worked much better. She said the masks need to be routinely washed based on use.
An effective cloth mask should fit snug but comfortably against the side of the face, be secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric, allow for breathing without restriction, and be able to be laundered, according to the CDC.
A mask can be made from cutting a strip of fabric from a T-shirt, or using a bandana or otherwise square 20 inch by 20 inch cotton cloth. A coffee filter can be used inside.
The masks should be used in any area where social distancing is hard to maintain, like grocery stores and pharmacies, especially in areas with community-based transmission, the CDC says.
“I also continue to urge people to only go to stores for essential items. This is not the time to browse or go to the store because you may be bored at home. If you don’t absolutely need the item, don’t go to the store,” Lockwood said. Community Support
Some local residents and businesses have stepped up to help sew masks for others.
In Wallingford, Patricia Longobardi is trying to get fabric masks to people in need, nurses in particular, many who are using the fabric masks as an extra layer over medical ones. The masks have a pipe cleaner above the nose, a pocket to insert a filter, and elastic bands to attach to the ears.
She started sewing masks about three weeks ago when a friend working at Genesis HealthCare Facility in Wallingford needed them.
Longobardi hasn’t stopped making them since and doesn’t have plans to slow down.
She hasn’t kept track of how many she’s made, but knows it’s a lot.
“I’m working on an order of 100 right now,” she said Tuesday afternoon.
Longobardi owns a small business called “Sewing by Patricia” and usually tailors dresses for proms and weddings, but since everything was cancelled, she’s had more free time. It also means she has the supplies and skills to spare.
Like many homemade mask makers, Longobardi isn’t charging for them. Instead she’s asking for donations to give to the Wallingford Wishing Well.
Two sisters in Wallingford and Cheshire started making fabric masks about a week ago. The masks have pockets to insert surgical masks or extra fabric and can be washed for reuse.
“I'm naturally a helper, so I wanted to find ways to help during this stressful time,” said Michelle Cucinelli, a Wallingford resident, via Facebook Messenger. “I'm not in health care, although a lot of family is, so I put my sewing skills to use and started making masks once I saw there was such a huge need for them in the community.”
Together, Cucinelli and her sister have made about 100 masks to donate and plan to continue until materials run out.
“Some masks were donated to Yale New Haven Hospital, some have been distributed to members in the community who have asked, and some will be donated to local first responders,” Cucinelli said.
Both women said elastic for ear attachments is the hardest material to come by. Cucinelli said its hard to find locally, and the wait time for shipping materials online is long.