Massive volunteer mask-making effort underway in Burlington

Published: Apr. 6, 2020 at 6:00 PM EDT
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"Do we need to wear a mask if we're alone in the woods with our dog? There's no one else around. No, but we do need to wear a mask if we're going into the grocery store, protect that person who's bagging our goods," said Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont's health commissioner.

Levine urged people to put masks on in public so they don't make someone else sick with COVID-19.

In Burlington, a massive mask operation is underway. Our Joe Carroll found one of the tailors taking up the cause.

At her home in Burlington, retired nurse-midwife Fran Cohen is keeping busy. She's been sewing together masks made out of heavy denim. It's her part in the war to take on the coronavirus.

"I know how to sew and I like to keep busy and help people, so that's why I wanted to do it," Cohen said.

The nonsurgical masks are for Burlington workers on the frontlines, those who are considered essential workers in the public and private sectors.

City councilor Joan Shannon is the mask project coordinator.

"We have enough fabric to make 20,000 masks and we are producing them now. We do have some now, we do have some out in the community," Shannon said.

Shannon says the city was able to get the material for $13,000, a fraction of the retail cost. But there is a learning curve. Volunteers like Cohen had to move up to heavier sewing machines. And with the heavy denim, the needles need to be robust.

Lyric Theater has helped make the kits to hand out but Shannon says they still need volunteers. There is a new urgency to step up production.

"A lot of what we are hearing now, you know, it's been recommended by the state that everyone should be wearing a mask," Shannon said.

Cohen knows the next few weeks will be a challenge for everyone. And the battle is far from over.

"Helping out my fellow peers that are out there on the frontlines," she said.

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