The days don’t end but the nights grow longer as we approach the second full month of self-isolating. Hard at work through these late nights are two of many remarkable members of our OVS community who exemplify what many in our community and internationally are doing to combat the global pandemic from home.
With now over a million confirmed cases nationwide and close to 70,000 deaths due to COVID-19, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. If you’re not a frontline worker or a healthcare professional right now, you may feel helpless, victimized, and robbed of whatever powers you once held.
Crystal Davis, a faculty member and administrator at Upper campus and Wendy Tremiti, in charge of Alumni Relations, have spent the last 5 weeks relentlessly sewing and distributing protective masks amid a national shortage.
Ms. Tremiti has received requests amounting to over 2,000 masks from hospitals and other essential businesses that have been deemed necessary in order to protect the employees and customers that they interact with. After distributing 47 masks to members of the OVS community, she has now turned her focus to Ventura County volunteers who are working with the homeless.
Ms. Davis initially worked diligently to distribute masks to at-risk family and friends who were most in need of personal protection equipment (PPE), then to the Montecito Fire Department where her son serves as a Captain. She also gave masks to her grandchildren, extended family, her niece and her niece’s colleagues at the bank where she continues to work throughout this crisis.
“Many countries are far ahead of us in this regard and regularly wear masks in public during cold and flu season,” said Ms. Davis. “Even though the CDC was not yet urging people to wear masks in public, I decided to work on a pattern and fabric combination that provided good protection and that was well-fitted enough so people could keep it on comfortably without constant fiddling.”
Ms. Davis believes that though masks provide a physical layer of protection from the virus, they serve another purpose as well.
“I knew that a properly designed and fitted mask–even homemade–would provide some protection from airborne contagion, but as importantly I understood the social importance of wearing masks to combat a pandemic. They become a visible reminder of the gravity of the situation and responsibility we have as a community to protect our ‘herd,’” Ms. Davis said as she explained the mindset that encouraged her to start making masks.
Ms. Tremiti had a somewhat different motivation.
“[I decided to start making masks] after I had a conversation with my cousin who works as a nurse My cousin is immunocompromised. She received one N95 mask for her shift. She has to wear a mask all day long and was concerned,” Ms. Tremiti said.
Worrying for the wellbeing of her cousin and others like her, Ms. Tremiti began producing them as fast as she could.
Both women thankfully had a family background in sewing that allowed them to make masks so quickly. Ms. Tremiti’s mother was a clothing designer for NY runway models for many years but never formally practiced or really attempted to sew herself.
Ms. Davis on the other hand was taught at a very young age how to sew by her mother, boasting that when she took Home Economics in middle school, she was already years ahead of her peers, but from the class was taught to appreciate those skills she learned at home. Those skills that she finds herself using once again, only this time, it’s in high-demand across the country.
“I found out that everyone is trying to buy sewing machines right now. My mother will be chuckling ironically from her grave at the idea that sewing has become so cool that one cannot buy a sewing machine easily right now,” Ms. Davis explained as she described her current predicament in purchasing a new sewing machine after she literally worked her last one to death.
It didn’t matter to her that she was forced to upgrade in order to ensure on-time delivery, Ms. Davis is willing to do what it takes to get these masks made.
Ms. Tremiti is working tirelessly to continue making masks while still continuing with all of her other responsibilities.
“I still come into the office every morning and then go home to homeschool 3 boys, Steel (7), Valor (4) and Legend (3). After the boys go to sleep I measure, iron, cut and sew for a few hours. I try to do as much as I can without taking time away from them,” said Ms. Tremiti. “It’s like the war effort, when people came together to produce clothing for soldiers on the home front during World War I and World War II.”
When prompted with the debate over the effectiveness of masks, both had similar things to say to support the use of such masks.
“They didn’t want civilians using clinical masks that were critically needed for health care workers and first responders. I know they did not want people to use masks at the expense of other critical precautions like social distancing, and hand washing. But the notion that a well constructed, properly fitting mask cannot be an effective component of one’s protection in a pandemic is absurd.” Ms. Davis explained.
When the virus first struck the United States as a national emergency, hospitals were unable to purchase enough masks to protect their staff because private citizens were stockpiling them for personal use. This initial concern spiraled into a debate over the effectiveness of masks themselves. After a few weeks, the CDC and federal government were quick to stress how vital they were in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
From the perspective of a healthcare professional that she spoke to, Ms. Tremiti gave an explanation similar to Ms. Davis’. “Handmade masks aren’t scientifically proven to be as effective at protecting you from the coronavirus,” Ms. Tremiti said. “These types of masks are not intended to protect the wearer but to protect against unintended transmission.”
As cases continue to grow in many states throughout the US, and state governments have already begun to slowly reopen states, it’s becoming clear that this virus will not simply disappear as soon as summer comes. This will be an issue we will have to combat for the foreseeable future.
As people begin to understand the permanence of this issue, a call to action can be heard echoing throughout the country. As Ms. Tremiti explained, the current state of the union finds itself in a wartime state of unity that has not been seen in generations. Nurses now volunteer their time working with the homeless to provide them with safe living conditions, musicians put themselves at risk playing for COVID-19 patients in hospitals, and people are at home working diligently to produce masks for those at risk.
The message that Ms. Davis and Ms. Tremiti has to give is very simple: help. If you can sew, sew a mask. If you can cook, make a meal for a family shelter. If you can’t do any of that, give your grandparents a call and make them smile.
“I have always been of the mind that the best I can do in life is try to use whatever skills, advantages, and time I have to help others,” Ms. Davis concluded. “Knowing people are safer as a consequence of my small actions gives me purpose and helps me sleep better at night.”Share