Immigrant Women Are Stepping Up In St. Louis To Make And Donate Cloth Masks | St. Louis Public Radio

Immigrant Women Are Stepping Up In St. Louis To Make And Donate Cloth Masks

Apr 9, 2020

The CDC reiterated this week the need for people to wear masks, even a simple one made at home. The use of simple cloth face coverings can slow the spread of the virus and help keep people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.

The voluntary public health measure paired with social distancing is crucial, as recent studies show that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms by speaking, coughing or sneezing in close proximity. The cloth masks also help keep the N95 masks for the health care workers and first responders who work in direct contact with COVID-19 patients.

The shortage of masks at local health care facilities is a growing concern for essential workers. This week, for example, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health asked for donations of cloth masks after evaluating its inventory. 

One such organization that’s helped fill in the gap is the Collective Thread, located in the garment district on Washington Avenue. A few weeks ago, it set out to produce thousands of cloth masks, or personal protection equipment, to donate to hospitals, jails and local health clinics — keeping its staff of primarily immigrant women working during the virus shutdown. 

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske learned more about the initiative in conversation with the Collective Thread co-founder Terri Stipanovich. 

For some of these sewers, it is their family’s only source of income since spouses have been laid off. They’re able to sew these masks at home and get paid for each one. The project got its start when the charity received $10,000 from the Lutheran Foundation, which helped cover the first 2,000 masks. 

But the demand has gotten so high that the organization is also now selling the reusable masks to community members interested in getting one for themselves. These cloth masks follow CDC guidelines but also include an extra feature where people can add filters to them, such as period pads or vacuum filters.

Watch: How to make a cloth mask at home

Donations can be made via the charity’s website.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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