Day 6

New Jersey band Thursday is turning old merch into masks for fans and front-line health-care workers

A New Jersey band is doing its part in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by transforming the T-shirts they’d normally sell at shows into cloth masks for front-line medical workers and fans.

Cloth from shirts used to make unbranded masks for health-care workers; branded masks available for fans

Geoff Rickly of the band Thursday performs on stage during Soundwave 2012 at the Sydney Showground on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sydney, Australia. (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

A New Jersey band is doing its part in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by transforming the T-shirts they'd normally sell at shows into cloth masks for front-line medical workers and fans.

"It started with us trying to figure out what new T-shirts we could make so that we'd make some money while we're not touring, you know. Because obviously this has put a real damper on any touring musician's livelihood right now," Geoff Rickly, lead singer for the post-hardcore band Thursday, told Day 6 host Brent Bambury.

"After a few minutes of conversation and talking, [we started] thinking about how we can help each other."

Rickly's band is now donating old shirts to local sewing collectives making cloth masks for front-line health workers in New Jersey, Maryland and New York state.

All the masks from these donations will be unbranded, but fans will also be able to buy masks with the band's logo, with the full proceeds going to the production of more masks for health-care workers.

According to The Southern Illinoisan newspaper, grassroots organizations across the U.S. have taken to sewing cloth masks for front-line health-care workers mainly to help them ration dwindling supplies of N95 and other medical-grade masks.

Canada's chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam said this week that while the scientific research "is not quite there" yet on the effectiveness of non-medical masks in stopping the spread of COVID-19, people could wear them as "an added layer of prevention."

She explalined that homemade masks might help slow the spread of COVID-19 because they can catch wayward droplets from pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people. However, they won't necessarily protect the person wearing the mask, which is why people must still wash their hands frequently and avoid touching their faces.

Tam stressed that medical-grade masks should be strictly reserved for health-care professionals, given the ongoing shortages.

The U.S. northeast constitutes Thursday's base of operations as well as its largest concentration of fans. But it's also among the areas hardest hit by the pandemic in the United States.

Minister of Health Patty Hajdu looks on as Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa. Tam says non-medical masks could help curb the spread of COVID-19. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

New York state's death toll alone exceeded 7,000 people this week. According to Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, the U.S. recorded more than 16,000 deaths as of Thursday afternoon.

Rickly says many people in his extended family either work in the health-care system or essential businesses like grocery stores, and have seen the effects of the coronavirus first-hand.

"Seeing that, and how necessary it is to protect them and also having some close friends who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 has just really brought it home for me," he said, adding that none of his friends who tested positive have required hospitalization.

"So, you know, we're holding out hope, but we do have some immuno-compromised family members. So it's scary."

Overwhelming response from fans

Rickly says the response so far from fans has been electric: they sold out their first batch of 300 branded masks in nine seconds; their second batch sold out in seven.

He said he's heard from fans and fellow musicians alike asking how they can contribute to the mask-making effort.

"I think that bands from our loosely punk background, they've started in such a DIY grassroots way — you know, playing basements and VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars] halls and playing benefits for each other," he explained. 

"I think this is a really familiar place to find ourselves again, where we're called to do collective action together."

Written by Jonathan Ore. Interview produced by Annie Bender.

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