PHOTO: As the number of COVID-19 cases increase, masks have become essential. At first, stores did not supply any, so people made them themselves. Once they became available, people began purchasing various types of face masks and other protective accessories.
By Stephanie Thompson,
When COVID-19 numbers began surging in March, Davis residents were frantic to get face masks in fear of catching the virus. At the start of the new year, no one anticipated this virus would take over everyone’s lives.
Before March, the spread of COVID-19 was less severe, with fewer than 100 cases. But when numbers heavily increased and schools began shutting down, people started to realize how serious the virus truly was.
By April, all of Davis was shut down; people were stuck at home and the virus had become widespread. When COVID-19 first became a problem, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) advised people not to wear masks.
They argued that masks should be reserved for doctors and nurses, and that wearing a mask would result in individuals touching their faces more often. This quickly changed as new information came to light, and soon face masks became mandatory for everyone when going out in public places.
However, stores had not begun supplying masks to the public, as they were needed for doctors, nurses and essential workers. Not enough time had passed for producers to push them onto shelves.
This sent people into a panic, for there was a requirement to wear a mask, but there were none readily available. As a result, people began creating masks of their own. Davis High senior Mia Mangney has been sewing for a couple years and decided to use her skills to make face masks.
“Usually I sew clothes, and I just figured with COVID happening, I might as well make myself some cute face masks,” Mangney said.
She has made some masks for her family as well. “It’s just a little bit harder with [bias tape] because I have to iron it and fold it a certain way when I’m ironing it, so it’s a little time consuming,” Mangney said.
Bias tape is commonly used to make traditional fabric stretchy, but Mangney used this tape for the part of the mask that secures the cloth to the individual’s face. Mangney used many different types of fabrics to style her masks and in total produced approximately 10 masks for herself and her family.
Senior Sophie Duhameau also made reusable masks for herself and her family. In early April when not many masks were available to purchase, Duhameau decided to make some of her own.
“My neighbor had a bunch of […] fabric lying around, so she gave it to [my family] to make masks,” Duhameau said.
Although sewing was a new skill for Duhameau, she quickly learned how to make double-layered face masks for those in need.
“I made over 100, and we donated to hospitals and assisted living. […] People should be able to have masks, and especially the elderly, when it’s easily transmissible to them, they should be able to feel safe,” Duhameau said.
Alongside DHS students sewing masks of their own, people in Davis and Yolo County began forming virtual groups to help the people searching for masks.
The Yolo County Mask-Making for COVID-19 Facebook group, which was created on March 22, was one of these groups. Sharyn Leith, one of the administrators of the group, has made and distributed over 700 masks.
“I would say [this group] is mainly [composed of] people that are sewing masks, and also people would join the group to get an idea of where to get a mask,” Leith said.
Nearing the beginning of COVID-19 and quarantine, the group was bombarded with requests from people in need of a mask. Various demands were coming in from various people, and Leith explains the first few weeks of quarantine as “really crazy… we were just sewing all the time because the needs were so great.”
As time progressed, the group began sending the masks to organizations as well as to individual people.
“I sent 25 to Georgia to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for their Lift Every Vote campaign,” Leith said.
Once stores began stocking shelves with masks, the group’s business decreased, along with the pressure of producing them. By the beginning of June, Davis stores had face masks ready to purchase. Retail stores including Target and the UPS store, alongside small businesses like the UC Davis store and Pinkadot, all supplied some type of face mask.
Face masks were even available at the Wednesday afternoon farmers market at a stand called “Rainbow Masks.” They supplied a wide variety of masks. Some were double-sided, some had designs on them and all were double-layered for protection.
The most common face masks being sold were cloth masks and surgical masks. Others sold included bandanas, face shields and N95 respirators, though the CDC advises for the N95 respirators not to be used by the general public.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.”
With face masks accessible in Davis, people began to explore more fashionable face masks. Some DHS students found masks that were both comfortable and stylish.
Senior Christopher Najera owns a white face mask with the Sacramento Kings basketball team logo printed on it that he bought online.
“I definitely think having a face mask you like and think looks good definitely [motivates] you to wear it,” Najera said.
The care and cleaning of face masks is also important when using reusable masks because it’s important that the same particles aren’t breathed in over and over again.
“It depends on how often I go out […] but it’s usually about two to three times a week,” Najera said.
Some students prefer plain masks. Senior Connor Tang wears basic surgical masks. His father works as a doctor, so they are always readily available in his house.
“I have access to both [surgical and cloth masks], so for my driver’s test I just wore my cloth one because we’re just one-on-one, but if I’m going somewhere extra populous, I’ll take the surgical mask,” Tang said.
Although wearing a mask can be uncomfortable at times, it is important to keep it on for the safety of others. There are various kinds of masks that can alleviate discomfort, but keeping masks on is vital to avoid the possible spread of COVID-19.