LOS ANGELES – N95 masks are in urgent demand by medical staff everywhere. Designed to filtrate 95 percent of airborne particles as small as .3 microns, they’re a necessary respirator in the fight against COVID-19.
“I’m going to try to fit in as many as I can,” said Kristina Wong as she stenciled out patterns to make masks from a large piece of fabric on her living room floor.
Wong is a performance artist. She never expected to be called to duty by nurses and doctors, but as someone that regularly sews props for her own shows, she jumped at the chance to pitch in.
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE:
- Coronavirus Updates: What to Know in SoCal
- Coping With Anxiety and Stress in the Age of Coronavirus
- Soap vs. Sanitizer: Which is Better?
“I feel like a modern day Rosie the Riveter in that I don’t know how to fight wars,” said Wong. “I don’t know how to use a gun, but I know how to sew and I know to arm the soldiers that are on the front lines. And that’s what I’m doing right now.”
When she heard that hospital staff everywhere were running out of masks, she decided to get to work sewing right away. She put out a message on her social media asking for donations and put every cent into fabric, thread, and elastic bands.
“I’ve been making these for nurses, for fire-fighters, for people’s parents and older relatives,” said Wong. “Just whoever asks me for them, I’ll make them.”
She taught herself how to make the masks by watching videos on YouTube and she’s been getting requests from as far away as a fire station in New York. And though the general public understands the limited supply of N95 masks should be reserved for healthcare professionals, due to asymptomatic transmission, some protection is better than none at all.
“That's a mask,” said Wong, demonstrating how it works. “It's enough to keep you from touching your face and if someone sneezes on you it just sits here on the surface until you take it off and put it in the wash.”
It takes her about 20 minutes to make a mask so she tries to make about 25 every day. It’s still not enough, she says.
“This is what's in short supply in hospitals, these two pieces of fabric,” said Wong. “It's not an N95, but it's some form of protection.”
And many people are thankful. Wong had her one woman show canceled due to COVID-19. Based on her experiences as an elected official with the Wilshire Center - Koreatown Neighborhood Council, she’s now using her skill to sew to sow hope.
“I didn't become a doctor obviously, but I finally now have one skill that can save lives and so I'm going to deploy it,” said Wong. “I'm going to deploy it. I’m going to help as many people as I possibly can before I lose my fingers.”
Your best protection is to wash your hands and to not touch your face, but that can be hard to do so perhaps a mask can help you with that.