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Mask crusaders: Area crafters create cover-ups to combat COVID-19

They’re science, safety and kindness mixed in with a whole lot of art and craft.

Area sewing machines have been busy as crafters across Central Virginia create cloth face masks for friends, family, first responders and medical care givers.

“People were looking for something to do while they were inside and they heard about the face mask recommendations and they just started sewing,” said Virginia State Trooper Anthony Clore, who delivered to nursing homes and hospitals the dozens of concoctions donated to Fork Union Baptist Church, where he serves as pastor.

“It was just something that people in the area started doing for others,” he said. “It’s people doing nice things for each other.”

Although the masks are not proper personal protection, they are important in stopping the spread of the COVID-19-causing virus SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC even put a video tutorial, graphics and a pattern for making the masks on its website. A video with U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams demonstrates how to quickly create a mask with a bandana and rubber bands.

The CDC, which had not recommended the masks prior to April 3, changed course after several studies showed the virus could remain airborne for hours in a closed space such as a living room and alive on metal and plastic for as long as three days.

In a research update published Friday, CDC investigators said studies show persons not showing symptoms of COVID-19 could possibly pass the virus to others in normal conversation.

“Speech and other vocal activities such as singing have been shown to generate air particles, with the rate of emission corresponding to voice loudness,” the study showed.

The virus, like the related virus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and influenza viruses, is easily transmitted by sneezing and coughing.

Touching the viral deposits and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth is an effective form of transmission. What makes the COVID-19 virus different is that it was detected in the air after simple conversation, according to the NIH studies.

It’s not known yet how much exposure to the virus is needed to catch COVID-19, known as the infectious dose.

“Speaking is not as forceful of an action, but they found that the virus survived in the air for three hours,” said Dr. Bill Petri, a professor with the University of Virginia School of Medicine who is studying aspects of the virus, including working to find a vaccine.

“Talking with your neighbor six feet away from each other while outside is a lot safer than bringing the neighbor into your house and talking six feet away. In a short time, the room could, in theory, become toxic,” Petri said.

The virus’ ability to stay adrift made the CDC recommend masking.

“That it can stay in the air for so long makes wearing masks so important, even if it’s just a handkerchief. When you wear a mask you are protecting someone else and they are protecting you,” he said.

Kim Dylla, the creative force behind Kylla Custom Rock Wear, a Charlottesville small business that makes stage clothes for international rock stars and wrestlers, found herself with free time after the pandemic canceled tours and shows.

She decided to sew masks for local health care workers but figured she could encourage the wearing of masks by creating masks in the same heavy metal motif as her stage wear.

“Tours and shows are canceled and I wanted to find a way to both keep our small business alive and use our talents and resources to help the community,” Dylla said. “I came up with the idea to sew masks for health care workers, but also make fashion masks in our unique post-apocalyptic style.”

With a degree in digital art and computer science, the UVa Echols Scholar designed the masks for placement of filtering devices and chose materials best suited to protection. She donates masks to healthcare workers who may order using a special promo code on her website,

“I did my science homework on materials and construction, and I make all that information transparent in a video in our listings along with a tutorial so others can make safer masks and help their own communities,” Dylla said. “By making the fashion masks, we promote mask-wearing among the general public so that people can keep their droplets to themselves while looking like movie villains.”

The proceeds are used to fund the materials to make free masks for health care workers, she said.

“So far we have shipped hundreds of these and I hope that the health heroes who wear them feel safer,” she said. “We will continue to use our resources to churn out more masks, and it has been a privilege to be able to help out in this time of need.”


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