Andrea Blair, a stay at home mom, also sews and makes children’s clothing through the Lofty Fox, though in recent weeks she has taken to sewing reusable masks for healthcare workers. (Martina Dopf photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

South Cariboo woman makes reusable masks for free

‘I hope everybody stays safe and listens to what the healthcare professionals say’

The call for reusable masks is being heard and answered in 100 Mile House by people like Andrea Blair.

A stay at home mom, Blair grew up in 100 Mile and works from home recycling garments into children’s clothes for her company the Lofty Fox. Recently, however, due to COVID-19 and being stuck indoors Blair has taken to sewing reusable masks, free of charge, for those who need them in the community.

Assisted by her 14-year-old son whenever he feels like it, Blair has been spending her evenings lately making masks out of quilting cotton. She first began looking into doing this a few weeks ago when she joined a Facebook group based out of Kamloops called Sew the Curve Kamloops. This group is similar she said to a larger group in the United States called Sew the Curve Flat, and is founded on the idea that reusable masks will help slow or stop the spread of COVID-19.

When she first joined, Blair said there were around 20 people in the group but that now there’s closer to 700. After conversing with the admin, she thought it’d be a good idea to provide them for the 100 Mile community to give people a little extra protection.

As she was browsing through the group she started getting ideas for the type of patterns and masks preferred by different healthcare and care-aid workers who are exposed to the public on a daily basis at their jobs. Blair found that care-aids want masks they can ties behind their head and neck, akin to a bandanna, which they can put over their existing masks while other healthcare workers wanted masks with elastics they can put behind their ears.

Once she got the pattern down, Blair started making masks for those who need them so they can use their disposable masks a bit longer. She chose quilting cotton because of its tight weave and breathability and the fact she has a good deal of that fabric in her house. From start to finish she said it takes about 15 minutes to make a single mask and goes much faster with help, she added with a chuckle. So far Blair said she’s made about a 100 as people have required the masks.

“I’m not charging for them because I feel that people who need them, need them,” Blair said. “You can reuse them, they can be tossed in the laundry. There’s a lot of guidelines for washing in really hot water and that sort of thing so all my fabric was washed in hot water to shrink it up so now they can be washed in hot water and bleach.”

In addition to care-aids and health care workers, Blair has also given masks to grocery store workers, delivery drivers and others who ask for them, a real mix of people. Those looking to acquire one can do so by contacting her Facebook page the Lofty Fox, as her usual activities are on the backburner currently.

Personally, Blair would like to do her part to support the people in the community who selflessly help it every day without asking for anything in return. Making masks for people to wear, in her opinion, helps protect

“I hope everybody stays safe and listens to what the healthcare professionals say,” Blair said.

Interior Health isn’t using anything other than medical/surgical masks (as well as N95 masks as appropriate) within health facilities, according to Karl Hardt, Senior Communications Consultant for Interior Health.

It’s not clear whether homemade cloth masks provide any protection, according to Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C. Provincial Health Officer. However, they do keep your own droplets in, she says.

“If people wanted to wear them when they were in the grocery store, whatever, so that it would keep their own droplets in, that’s probably okay. But we need to be careful because you don’t want to be touching your face all the time or you might get contaminated, and they need to be ones that you can clean,” she says. “You can’t rely on it instead of doing the things that we know work, which are cleaning our hands regularly, covering our mouth when we cough — and it may help with that — and keeping our distance.”

Canada’s chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam said on Monday, April 6 that a special advisory committee has come to a consensus that “wearing a non-medical mask even if you have no symptoms is an additional measure to protect others around you.”

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