Local fashion designer Gillian Curry-Williams has joined the list of international designers that have stepped up to produce face masks for healthcare workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the supply of face masks dwindles.
Curry-Williams, through her Remilda Rose Designs and Fabric of Hope Foundation, agreed to produce masks to assist healthcare workers in the United States (U.S.), after she was approached by a designer.
“I got a message from a designer in the U.S. asking me if I wanted to assist some persons who were making masks for the medical persons in the U.S., so Remilda Rose Designs and Fabric of Hope Foundation agreed to assist,” said Curry-Williams.
“I was excited. I was happy. It’s a good cause. I pray that other designers, locally, are able to get on board with it. Even if you just send five, it’s a help because they’re needed.”
Curry-Williams has made approximately 270 masks over 10 days, and shipped the first shipments – one of which she said went to Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center in Panama City, Florida.
The number of masks she makes for any medical center is determined by the request she gets. She said one hospital wanted 150, and another wanted 50.
It takes Curry-Williams approximately 10 minutes to complete a mask.
Curry-Williams isn’t the only designer making masks for healthcare workers. She joined international designers such as Christian Siriano who answered the call; and The Kering Group, the parent company of Balenciaga, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent has said the luxury fashion houses would soon begin manufacturing masks once the materials were approved by the relevant authorities.
Curry-Williams’ masks – some of which are made from her Fabric of Hope as well as others made from regular fabric – have since taken off at home.
“A friend of mine called me on Sunday, wanting to know what I was doing. I told her I was making these masks, and she said to send them to her so she could see. I sent them, and within an hour, her sister who is a doctor, got 10 of them. After she wore it, a nurse saw it and it went from there.”
The face masks Curry-Williams produces for the U.S. donation are made with ties, while the face masks for local use are made with elastic.
One request she said the U.S. hospitals all had was that the masks be able to tie because their ears were sore from the elastic.
Curry-Williams’ face masks are all lined with white lining, so that the wearer is not exposed to dye against their skin. All of her face masks also have nose wiring, and are washable.
“I’m going to try to push out as much as possible, because now that they’ve caught on, everybody wants masks. And I have some pretty colors,” she said.
Curry-Williams’ masks hit the market as the Ministry of Health softened its position a bit on whether people should wear face masks and recommended that people wear masks to help contain the spread of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
The Bahamas, as of Wednesday, had 21 confirmed COVID-19 cases, one confirmed death and 213 people in quarantine.
Worldwide, there were 850,583 confirmed with 41,654 deaths.
“We have moved from some of our strongly held views,” Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said on Guardian Radio show “Morning Blend” with host Dwight Strachan on 96.9FM.
Sands said while home-made face masks do not provide the same level of protection as medical masks, they probably provide some protection and reduce the spread of the disease, which is spread by droplets.
“So, we’re suggesting that people should consider wearing even a home-made mask, or if they have access to masks that would be fine.”
On the World Health Organization (WHO) site, the advice for healthy people as to when to use a face mask is only if they are taking care of a person with suspected COVID-19; and if they are coughing or sneezing. The WHO site says face masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. And that mask wearers must know how to use and properly dispose of them.