A mask-making movement has started in Cayman, adopting a global trend aimed at reducing the spread of infectious disease.
While there is still limited availability of surgical and professional masks in Cayman, homemade wares can provide an alternative. The Cayman Islands Red Cross is calling on seamstresses to assist in sewing a local supply and #CayMask is driving an online community around DIY mask-making.
Cayman’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee recognised the utility of widespread mask adoption during Monday’s government press conference. Public health agencies had previously advised against the use of face masks by healthy individuals, driven in large part by supply constraints for single-use medical items, Lee explained.
“Although wearing a face mask does not protect yourself, it actually protects the person that you might come up against by protecting any droplets from you from going that way,” Lee said.
Face masks will absorb any droplets that come in their direction, but they also prevent droplets from going out and spreading to others. Essentially, wearing a face mask during a time of pandemic is a gesture to protect your neighbour.
“In Hong Kong, in China and in Japan, especially because of the SARS epidemic, there it became the norm for people to wear masks whenever there was the threat of an infectious disease, such as this virus that we’re now facing,” Lee said. “There is no doubt that if everybody was to wear masks, then it would protect the community more.”
That doesn’t mean everyone should rush out and purchase disposable masks, however.
Lee warned that medical face masks, like N95 masks, should be reserved for frontline medical staff, who rely on disposable masks to minimise their risk of infection. Currently, Cayman has 3,500 N95 masks available and 300,000 on order, according to numbers provided by Health Minister Dwayne Seymour Monday. There are an additional 106,000 surgical masks in stock in Cayman and 83,000 on order.
Seymour on Tuesday hinted at the possibility of panic shopping for face masks, given the updated advice encouraging their use.
“I know there’s going to be a mask frenzy,” he said, adding, “in my personal opinion, I think masks are the way to go.”
The minister said government is working on securing a supply of masks that could be distributed to the community.
In response to the anticipated demand, Massive Media launched the #CayMask campaign, providing tips and instructions online for crafting masks at home.
“We really hope people will help each other with this initiative. There are elderly isolated and other vulnerable groups who will need masks to be made for them, and people can use the CayMask Facebook group to help connect the makers with those people,” said Massive Media’s Rich Dyer in a press statement.
The website, www.caymask.com, includes links to videos, instructions and hygiene tips for using face masks. “My mask is protecting you. Your mask is protecting me,” it says.
The World Health Organization advises that face masks are only effective when users wash their hands properly and practise good hygiene.
“Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water,” the World Health Organization advises on its website.
“Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask. Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.”
A single-use mask should never be reused and should be disposed of in a trash bin.
When removing a mask, remove it from behind and do not touch the front. Immediately discard it in a closed bin and then clean hands with soap and water.
For reusable masks, CayMask advises users to wash them at a high temperature, use a heated clothes’ dryer, and iron after each use. If a mask gets wet, remove and replace it.
To contact the Red Cross about its mask campaign, contact 925-2251, 916-4932 or 546-9065. The email contact is [email protected].