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‘Everybody wants one’: Maritimers make non-medical masks as COVID-19 health advice evolves

Click to play video: 'Production of non-medical masks ramping up in New Brunswick' Production of non-medical masks ramping up in New Brunswick
The province says it’s expanding its testing criteria and is giving advice on non-medical face coverings. Silas Brown has more – Apr 7, 2020

Maritimers are ramping up production of non-medical masks as public health advice evolves during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canada’s top doctor, Dr. Theresa Tam, said Monday that new evidence suggests non-medical masks can help protect people around you in places such as grocery stores or on public transit.

While sewing might not be the most common past time, it’s certainly one that’s now seeing a spike in demand.

Sarah MacPherson, owner of Birdie & Bub Clothing in Moncton, N.B., says that after sales dried up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, she was left with plenty of fabric, so she went to work with her seamstress.

“I sort of started researching patterns and researching fabrics,” she told  Global News. “My seamstress and I were trying to come up with the best plan.”

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WATCH: Coronavirus outbreak — Tam advises masks not for all ages due to possible suffocation risk

It turned out to be a plan that sold out of more than 100 masks during the first three hours of sales on Monday, she says.

“Everybody wants one and everybody has the ability to make something,” MacPherson said. “Since I have the ability to do it, she’s willing to give her time, I’m willing to give my time, let’s just try to make this a charitable thing.”

MacPherson says any profits will be donated to local charities.

In Halifax, Carmen Lee wanted to do her part to help, too. She started a Facebook page called MASK Halifax and began figuring out how to produce her own masks, which she’s giving away.

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“It’s kind of a financial difficulty in this situation,” Lee says. “I know a lot of people lost their jobs so I used some of my savings to buy some fabric from a local small business.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Wearing non-medical masks will help others but not you, Tam says

She admits she’s not an expert but says she produced six non-medical masks on the first day of work. The Hong Kong native says that when the virus hit there, she noticed empty shelves here in the Maritimes.

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“I complain a lot about people not wearing masks here,” she says.”Because it’s kind of a big difference from Asia and from Hong Kong.”

New Brunswick chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says it’s important the public doesn’t use surgical masks because those are for health-care workers.

“Any cloth covering that fits snugly over the mouth and nose is effective,” she says. “Make sure you wash it after each use and wash your hands before you touch it and after you touch it.”

“[Wearing a mask] does not replace physical distancing, it doesn’t replace regular handwashing and cleaning frequently contacted surfaces,” Russell says. “These practices continue to be more important than wearing a mask in public.”

In Ottawa, despite the new mask advice, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “The most important thing is for people to stay home.”

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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