Individuals, ministries crafting face masks to help slow spread of COVID-19

Laura Rickard was on the way to prom in mid-March when she heard the news that school was canceled for the rest of the year because of COVID-19.

“That took away the rest of my senior year,” said Rickard, a Corner High School student and member of New Temple Baptist Church, Dora. “I was really sad about it.”

But even so, her next move wasn’t to sit in her loss — it was to figure out how she could best help others.

“I’d always found sewing relaxing, so I found a pattern, watched a few videos online and began to sew face masks,” she said.

Rickard sewed them for her friends, her family and her family’s coworkers. She sewed them for Mission of Hope, for her church and for others in the community.

And roughly 300 masks in, with some help from her mom, she’s still sewing.

“Each mask we make is prayed over,” Rickard said. “We pray for the protection of the wearer.”

In the early weeks of the pandemic, hospitals requested cloth masks to extend the availability of approved protective gear, and all over the state and nation, seamstresses like Rickard worked selflessly to supply them.

Some ministries like We Sew Love at Huffman Baptist Church, Birmingham, have cranked out large numbers of masks made from sheets and pillowcases. A group from Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Birmingham, also is sewing masks to donate. Other people have used patterns like the one found on the Alabama Woman’s Missionary Union website to sew their own.

Now perhaps the big question is — if you’re not wearing one, should you be?

Confusion about whether or not masks are necessary has been floating around since “coronavirus” first became a household word. But as time has gone on, more medical professionals and government officials have suggested that masks can help slow the spread of the virus.

In early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its policy to recommend everyone cover his or her face with a mask or cloth covering anytime they come within six feet of people outside their home. This policy change came on the heels of growing evidence the virus wasn’t just spread in the air through sneezes or coughs — it could also be spread through exhaling or speaking.

As of April 28, all Alabamians were urged to wear masks or face coverings by the Alabama Department of Public Health, and all Birmingham residents were mandated to wear them in public unless participating in exempted activities, such as exercise and certain types of construction work.

Should you wear a mask?

If you’re not specifically mandated to wear one, should you? What about as restrictions begin to loosen?

Across the nation, Christians and non-Christians alike have grappled with that question. Time published an article in early April dealing with “The Ethics of Wearing (or Not Wearing) a Face Mask During the Coronavirus Pandemic.”

The Atlantic summed it up this way in an April 22 article called “The Real Reason to Wear a Mask” — it’s not about you, it’s about others. The article compared wearing a mask to stopping the flow of a hose by turning off the faucet.

“Research shows that even a cotton mask dramatically reduces the number of virus particles emitted from our mouths — by as much as 99%,” the article stated. “This reduction provides two huge benefits. Fewer virus particles mean that people have a better chance of avoiding infection, and if they are infected, the lower viral-exposure load may give them a better chance of contracting only a mild illness.”

To put it simply, wearing a mask can do a lot to protect others, even if it’s just a simple cloth mask. Many people who are infected with the virus don’t know it — and don’t realize they’re spreading it to others.

While immune-compromised people may want to wear an N95 mask to protect themselves, those who aren’t can help protect others by wearing a cloth mask.

In countries where mask production was ramped up — and people have been wearing them — the numbers show the virus is slowing, The Atlantic article stated. “[O]rdinary people are not helpless; in fact, we have more power than we realize. Along with keeping our distance whenever possible and maintaining good hygiene, all of us wearing just a cloth mask could help stop this pandemic in its tracks.”

Burdened hearts

The article asked readers to think of coronavirus as a raging fire.

“If we could just keep our embers from being sent out every time we spoke or coughed, many fewer people would catch fire. Masks help us do that,” the article stated. “And because we don’t know for sure who’s sick, the only solution is for everyone to wear masks. This eventually benefits the wearer because fewer fires mean we’re all less likely to be burned. My mask protects you; your masks protect me.”

Candace McIntosh, executive director of Alabama WMU, said showing love for others is the reason many have taken to making and wearing masks amid the crisis.

“Sewing masks has been an incredible outlet for many to express the love of Jesus during this pandemic,” she said. “Our hearts have been burdened for those in need of personal protective equipment whether in the medical profession or the service industry.”

The need has grown as the government advised everyone to wear them, she said. “I have been so encouraged by Alabama Baptists all over our state who are loving their neighbor through the ministry of sewing.”

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