Making face masks for others: ‘A way to feel connected while we stay apart’
Following CDC recommendations to wear face coverings, Wells Fargo employees are getting creative with materials around the house.
In early April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recommendation that all Americans wear face masks in public to reduce transmission of COVID‑19. With widespread shortages of medical-grade face masks — which should be reserved for health care providers — many individuals are making face masks at home. The CDC’s site offers several examples of how to make homemade face coverings, along with tips on how to wear them and keep them clean.
Following the CDC’s revised guidance, Wells Fargo immediately began contracting with apparel and other manufacturers to make face coverings. The company is now in the process of distributing these to employees working at branches, contact centers, and operations centers across the country.
Even before the CDC’s formal recommendation, many Wells Fargo employees were already hard at work producing homemade face masks in their free time. And since the guidance was announced, more employees across the country have jumped into action to help supplement the mask shortage for friends and colleagues, family and neighbors, and local health care providers.
Yan Wong, a digital consultant based in California, was an early adopter in producing homemade face masks:
“There is nothing better than getting crafty and helping people at the same time! Two weeks ago, I created and donated 60 masks to local hospitals and nursing homes with the help of other volunteers. After receiving some more donated fabric, I am proud to have created over 100 masks total so far. Same as last time, these masks have a pocket for filters. I want to improve my mask design to better help the medical workers and be efficient at the same time. I looked through a face mask community on Facebook where many people said having straps instead of elastic would be better for the medical workers, since elastic will hurt their ears for long-term use. It was definitely a lot more work to create the straps, but it is worth it thinking how it will make the medical workers’ lives a little bit easier.”
While suitable fabric tends to be readily available around the house (common options include T-shirts, bandanas, and shop towels), employees are getting creative in repurposing usable elastic materials, such as elastic hair ties, Ace bandages (cut into ¼ inch strips), and elastic cut from old fitted sheets. Other options like rubber bands, ribbon, and simple cloth ties work well enough in a pinch.
Ron Bartleet, a Technology consultant in San Diego, reports he’s been his wife’s face mask production assistant and model for several weeks:
“My wife has taken on this task as part of a large Facebook group in our community. We’ve been making and supplying masks to health care workers, administrative staff at the sheriff’s office, medical examiners, and department of animal services. She’s also made masks for many friends and family members, especially those with compromised immune systems. I am merely the guy who cuts the fabric!”
Bartleet and his wife are not alone: Making face masks has become a family activity for many, including Deana Robinson, a senior fiduciary administrator in North Carolina. Robinson taught her 12-year-old daughter, Tori, some basics of using a sewing machine, and the two of them went to work:
“Tori is Jr. Miss Southern States Cosmos, and she is always looking for ways to give back to the community. This is a perfect way that she can give back at the moment while we are quarantined. We partnered with a local dental practice who was looking for volunteers to help the UNC Health system by contributing face masks sewn at home. They provided the materials, and we provided the time. We worked on the masks this past weekend and ended up making around 50 masks over the course of about 12 hours total. Because we are not experts, it did take a little longer, but the more we did the faster we got, and once we created a system, it moved a little faster.”
Christy Punch, a digital consultant in South Carolina, says that with stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and all the uncertainty related to the coronavirus, taking some time to make face masks has created a way to feel connected while we stay apart:
“I spent the weekend teaching myself how to sew masks, and I’m doing two different kinds — both with filter pockets, and one has a tube at the nose to insert a pipe cleaner or metal twisty tie to help shape the top to the nose. I made masks to mail my parents who both fall into the high-risk category, but will start making more to donate locally here in Charleston. It took me a while to figure out the first few, but now I think I have the hang of it.”
Together — from a distance — these individual acts by employees can make a big impact for local communities, and is another way Wells Fargo is working to bring financial relief and support its customers, employees, and communities during the ongoing health crisis.