To help level a widespread shortage of N95 protective medical masks, local organizations and businesses are getting cloth face coverings to citizens who need them the most.
Non-medical essential workers and the public visiting Los Angeles businesses as of Friday were required to wear some type of face covering. Redondo Beach introduced a similar mandate Thursday night, and L.A. County on Friday announced a county-wide face mask requirement that takes effect April 15.
Fernando's, a custom home accessories and clothing store in Redondo Beach's Riviera Village, shifted gears March 13 to make custom face masks after temporarily closing up shop as a non-essential business. The masks however, are essential, the store's owner, Fernando Adames said by phone last week.
"Today this is a necessity," Adames said, "Like a drawer of underwear and socks, everybody needs a drawer full of masks today."
"I knew it was coming and I got ahead of the game,"Adames said, adding that his relationship with community members garnered good mask business from the start.
Adames and his wife and business partner, Renessa Adames, have made and sold about 250 fabric masks so far, he said.
"I cannot sit and wait," Adames said of switching his product. "I have to go get it because I have the machines, fabric and I know how," he added.
Megan Duckett’s Rancho Dominguez-based company, Sew What? Inc., went from manufacturing stage draperies for large entertainment events like concerts, working five to six days a week, to producing personal, non-medical grade cloth face masks, which she calls a “community outreach product.”
With the masks, she hopes to alleviate the equipment shortage of health care professionals during the Novel coronavirus outbreak.
“It was a matter of switching and retooling every weekend, and coming back with a vision; basically learn a brand new product line,” said Duckett, who lives in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Duckett said the polyester fabric is “intended for personal use only and is not meant to replace a surgical face mask.”
“It’s durable, but breathable, and we have a nice lightweight, soft lining in there, so it's not abrasive on the face,” Duckett said.
The Cancer Support Community Redondo Beach, meanwhile, has been facilitating the creation and donation of fabric masks for cancer patients, who are more vulnerable to coronavirus than generally healthy people.
Nancy Lomibao, program director for CSC Redondo, posted a sewing pattern for the masks on Facebook two weeks ago, she said last week by phone, asking anyone who is able to sew and donate fabric face masks to Cancer Support Community participants and other local patients with weakened immune systems. Lomibao’s friends and family, and Deb Patrick, vice president of CSCRB’s board, she said, jumped on board as mask-makers for the initiative.
“They’re not meant to be a substitution, they’re just meant to fill in during this time when the other masks are not available,” Lomibao said in a YouTube video posted a couple of weeks ago.
This was out of a need to serve our participants, Theresa Plakos, public relations director for CSCRB wrote by email last week, without impacting the supply of needed masks that must go to health professionals on the front lines first.
Lomibao packs the masks inside Ziploc bags, she said, with notes saying "please wash them upon receipt" either by hand or in washing machines.
"I'm taking precautions; washing my hands and using sanitizer when packaging," she added.
Her only worry is the packages' potential exposure to coronavirus through the postal process, she said. "Hopefully the virus would be dead by then," Lomibao added.
Support group facilitators ask participants if they need masks, Lomibao said, during daily sessions.
"Once we've exhausted those about 30 groups, we'll then reach out to participants in our mind body classes who are just out of their treatments and deemed cancer free but still have compromised immune systems," Lomibao said, adding that she's targeting the most vulnerable first.
When the organization feels it has touched all the participants, Lomibao added, she will reach out to the support community's professional advisory board of surgeons, oncologists and other cancer-related doctors to provide masks for them and their patients.
Adames is asking people who have extra fabric in their homes to cut and donate some to his initiative. Diane Sanders from Remax in Manhattan Beach donated hundreds of yards of elastic to Fernando's, Adames said, adding that elastic is gold during the pandemic.
"We can make it together," Adames said of the masks, "It's hard for me to cut, sew and sell."
Call Fernando Adames at 310-529-8935 to help Fernando's make masks for the public.