Yukoners sew homemade cloth masks to meet high demand
Non-medical masks more likely to protect others than person wearing them
The demand for homemade masks in Yukon is high — and it's been that way since even before Canada's chief public health officer said it could be beneficial to wear them in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a change from her previous stance, Dr. Theresa Tam now says non-medical masks could be worn as an additional measure to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
But many Yukoners didn't wait for Tam's go-ahead to put in their mask order. The owner of a sewing and repair store in Whitehorse said she's already made about 200.
"We need it, so I'm glad to [sic] help with the community," said Karin Martinez of Renueva.
Martinez said she follows a pattern that's being used at a hospital in France, made from cotton and fleece.
Sydney Wolf, an apprentice tailor by trade, is also making masks, but from the comfort of her home.
Wolf is immunocompromised and said she first made masks for herself and her husband. After that, people started asking her to make them. She's made about 90 so far.
Wolf said the repetition of making them helps her deal with the anxiety she feels about the pandemic.
"I love sewing. I figured I should do something to help other people, too. It makes me feel really, really good."
Both Wolf and Martinez sell masks in various sizes.
Cloth masks could reduce chance of infecting others
Tam previously said there was no need for healthy people to wear masks.
While she still maintains that medical masks should be reserved for front-line health-care workers, she now says that wearing a non-medical mask, along with following physical distancing measures, can limit the transmission of COVID-19.
She said they might help by preventing a person's respiratory droplets from reaching another person or surface. She said the masks should be well-fitted, with no gaps.
In a press briefing Monday, Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon's chief medical officer, spoke about homemade masks.
"A homemade mask has not been shown to protect the person wearing it," he said. "It could be, though, that wearing a mask, particularly in crowded settings, can be a way to help the chance of you infecting others.
"In other words, think of cloth masks as another way to cover your face when you cough."
Medical experts say that wearing a mask does not replace the need for physical distancing, hand washing and other recommended measures.