TUPELO • As masks continue to be recommended as a way to prevent spreading COVID-19, community members have begun sewing cloth masks to distribute for free to those who need them.

Jay Dey, a local retired endocrinologist, said he put out a call for face masks as a need within the Tupelo Community Needs Facebook page. The need was important because masks help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Dey said.

“The problem with this specific infection is there is a phase of asympotomatic transmission, meaning unlike other viruses like the flu virus, a person may have this virus and be spreading this virus several days before he or she gets to feel any effects of the virus,” Dey said. “That makes it even more important for us to mask up as we slowly open up the economy and go back to stores and hairdressers.”

A few members of A Heart For The Babies, a non-profit volunteer organization that often sews and donates items for disadvantaged babies, offered to help make masks. The masks are available for free at Palmer’s Shoppers Value Foods, and Dey said owner Jason Palmer has been key in having the business act as a distribution center for the masks.

Terry Hutcheson said she began making masks with two other friends after Dey and a local nurse emphasized the importance of masks. Since starting in March, she has made 200 to 250 masks, with plans to make more if contacted.

“I just saw a need for it,” Hutcheson said.

Hutcheson said it was Berna Hampton who gave them the idea to make sure the masks were distributed to local nursing homes and frontline workers.

Joani Trott has made 316 masks since starting and said it takes her 20 to 30 minutes apiece to make each mask. While Trott is used to sewing, she said there was a learning curve in learning to make face masks. She initially used elastic for the first masks, but said once there was a shortage, she began making ties and using leftover satin ribbon originally gathered for clothes.

The women donate their own materials to make the masks, though Trott said she would appreciate elastic since she is out. Masks are made as the need is made available, and Dey said he tries to make it known in the FB group where to pick up masks.

Dey said people were thankful for the masks, with several using it for personal or family use. Others took masks to local health facilities, such as clinics and dialysis centers, when there was a shortage. While the need has diminished as masks become more readily available, Dey is grateful that volunteers are still helping with distribution of masks.

“I really enjoyed doing it and it was a pleasure to contribute to the community in a small way,” Trott said.

danny.mcarthur@journalinc.com

Twitter: @Danny_McArthur_

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