Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, unemployment is quickly approaching historic levels, and some economists are forecasting we may be heading to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Welcome to April 2020 in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
While countless people are scrambling to find paying jobs or anxiously awaiting unemployment benefits to kick in, one Tulalip citizen’s ingenuity and craftsmanship has allowed her to carve out a critical position in a very niche, yet suddenly surging, market place. Georgina Medina, tribal member and devoted mother of five, is creating stylish, protective face masks to combat the coronavirus.
First, we must interrupt this article with an important message from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“The CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States. We now know the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies).
“It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”
That message comes directly from the CDC’s own website in an April 3rd announcement ending the weeks’ long debate about whether a non-medical grade face mask can minimize the transmission of coronavirus. The answer is a resounding ‘Yes, it can.’
Now, back to Tulalip tribal member Georgina and her homemade mask making. It was in early March, back before COVID-19 had really entered the everyday lexicon and long before the CDC recommendation, that she had the foresight to hone her craft making skills. A high-risk family member had started to wear a mask as a preventative measure and Georgina thought to herself, “I wonder how difficult those are to make?”
The inquisitive 36-year-old then took to YouTube and watched a video tutorial on cloth mask making.
“It seemed easy enough, so I tried a few different methods on my sewing machine that my boyfriend bought me for Christmas,” recalled Georgina. “It was quite an experience. I messed up a few times until finally finding a way that worked for me.”
When she perfected her fabrication method, she made a mask using an eye-catching fabric design and posted it on Facebook. The response was incredible. Immediately, she received comments and messages from prevention-minded individuals offering to purchase one of her homemade creations.
“I learned quickly that there was a definite need for these types of masks. After I posted that picture the requests just kept coming,” said Georgina. “Because I purchase all the materials and do all the necessary cutting, sewing and ironing by hand, I decided to charge $10.00 per mask. It’s been one journey after another to my favorite store (Jo-Anne’s Fabric in Smokey Point) to pick out fabrics ever since.”
From the time when she made that initial Facebook post in March, the terms ‘coronavirus’, ‘COVID-19’ and ‘high-risk groups’ have dominated the media landscape. COVID-induced fear and panic has spread like wildfire across not just the nation, but the entire planet. Globally, there are now 1.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 85,000+ deaths attributed to the pandemic. The statistics continue to grow at an exponential rate, resulting in health experts no longer simply urging preventive measures, instead they are demanding the use of social distancing and mask wearing when in public.
As a result, Georgina’s 100% double-layered cotton fabric masks are Earth-friendly not only because they are washable and reusable, but they also potentially save lives by mitigating risk of coronavirus transmission.
“If my masks help people and allow some to feel safe going in public like on essential trips for supplies and groceries, then I’m glad I can be a part of that,” said Georgina when considering her masks’ positive impacts. “A mask is not a cure, but it is a preventative measure and that’s better than nothing at all. The CDC has recommended everyone to start wearing them, so I’ll keep making them until we are virus free.”
To date Georgina’s surging sales have led to a customer base spanning the entire west coast. She has shipped her masks to consumers from Alaska to California, the Dakotas and throughout Canada. There’s even been repeat business from a customer in Texas.
“I have an impaired immune system and was terrified to leave the house,” shared customer Callisto. “Now, with this mask and an added filter on the inside of it, I can go get groceries and not be so afraid. [The mask] is beautiful, fits well, and is so needed. And a bargain for the price!”
She delivers locally, offers shipping to those who require it, and even takes custom orders for customers desiring a specific fabric design.
“A huge thank you to those willing to support me and my 5 children at this time,” said the diligent mask maker before hustling back to her sewing machine. She just received another order to fill.
Anyone interested in buying a stylish, protective mask to aid in lowering the coronavirus curve can do so by contacting Georgina Medina on Facebook.
By Michael Rios, Tulalip News