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Masks

Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport offers virtual museum workshops for children in kindergarten through Grade 3 in July and August. Workshops will be held via Zoom and will include a virtual tour of the collections, interactive sessions with a museum educator, creative projects, and a complimentary admission to the Museum for a future visit. 

Creative projects will be featured on social media. Workshops include Animal Adventure & Dreamy Collage on July 6 and 8 (Children will need a photo of themselves to include in the collage); Trivia & a Craft:  Oceans & Recycled Plastic Art on July 13 and 15; Big Cats & Mini Animal Diorama on Aug. 3 and 5; and Trivia & a Craft: African Savanna & Warthog Mask on Aug. 10 and 12.

Project materials (not including glue) can be picked up the week before the workshop date. $15 per child/members are free. Advance registration is required to participate. Please call 631-854-5539 to reserve a space.

Photo from Barbara Anne Kirshner

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

LIPSTICK — the outward expression of our inward feelings. If we are happy, we choose cheery colors, if we are down we might gravitate toward the more subdued. Lip color also strategically complements our outfits. For the power suit, we go for bold tones; for comfy weekends, we seek naturals. We celebrate the seasons with rich russet and brown shades for autumn, reds for merry winter holidays, pastels for blossoming springtime and bright playful oranges for carefree summer. 

Lipstick has been our crowning accessory for centuries starting with Sumerian men and women who created it from natural substances like fruits, henna, clay rust and insects. Mesopotamian women ground precious jewels to add color and shimmer to lips. Egyptians like Cleopatra created striking shades of purple and black from carmine dye derived from grounded cochineal insects. 

Through the centuries, lip color has been a barometer for our culture and personal expression. 

In the 19th century, only actors and actresses wore it for stage, though not in public. Sarah Bernhardt, the famous actress, was one of the first to wear lip color in public. 

By 1920, lip products gained a place in everyday lives of women. James Bruce Mason Jr. created the first swivel tube in 1923 which is still used today. When women gained the right to vote, lipstick was their symbol  of feminism.

Lip color gained popularity in the 1930’s heading into the 1940’s when, during World War II, red lips were considered a boost to the morale. Besame’s American Beauty was one of the most popular shades of red.

The 1950’s saw women copying their favorite Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn who were glamorously adorned in bold reds. 60% of all teenage girls at the time wore lipstick. Even Queen Elizabeth II got into the craze by creating her own shade to match her coronation robe which was customized by Clarin’s and named after her Scottish country home, The Balmoral.

The 60’s and 70’s saw a variety of lip shades inspired from pop culture. Corals were prominent with Maybelline’s Orange Danger topping the market. Flavored lip products such as Bonnie Bell’s ‘Lip Smackers’ gained popularity especially with the teen market.

Shimmers and glosses were the ‘in’ thing for the 80’s. Bold reds were back as an expression of power dressing. Hot pinks became the rage for the dance crowds and Goth lips for the alternative sub-culture.

In the 90’s environmental consciousness demanded chemical free, more natural formulas for lip products. The big craze of the 90’s was outlining with dark lip pencils and filling in with lighter lipstick. Mac and Urban Decay were born.

Shine and lip glosses were back in the 2000’s. Now, there are endless varieties of lip colors and formulas to match any whim. We can go from that natural look with nudes to outrageous choices like green, yellow and blue.

Lip products evolved into a global multi-billion dollar industry which had been expected to reach 13.11 billion dollars in 2020. This healthy market was on its way to breaking records when COVID hit and we found ourselves shielded behind masks that covered those colorful lips. At first, we continued to paint, but quickly realized not only didn’t anyone see our efforts, but we stained our masks in the process. We were reduced to a simple swipe of clear gloss to moisturize, but no need for anything else.

The lip product market as well as the entire beauty industry drastically fell in 2020 as a result of the pandemic making last year historically one of the worst. McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, predicts makeup sales will continue being soft for the foreseeable future since for a time at least, when consumers return to the workplace, masks will be a required part of the uniform which will further slow lipstick’s recovery.

Anxious for COVID to evaporate as suddenly as it moved in ravaging life as we knew it, we thirst for normalcy. We want to rip off those masks that sequester us from the world so we may once more display our signature look enhanced by every color of the rainbow and then some. We long to return to our creativity applying shines, glosses, sheers, shimmers, creams, frosts, satins, metallics, mattes and pencils. We long for that vibrant or dramatic look that only our old friend lipstick can provide.

BUT until that fateful day we are resigned to — NO LIPSTICK REQUIRED!!

References:

— Gerstell, Emily, Marchessou, Sophie, Schmidt, Jennifer, Spagnuolo, Emma. “How Covid-19 is changing the world of beauty.” McKinsey & Company. May 2020.

— Sengupta, Avipsha. “A Complete History of Lipstick.” Stylecraze.com. October 9, 2020.

— “100 Years of Lipstick: Looking Through Trends Over the Decades.” Beauty Connoisseur.com. October 3, 2019.

Miller Place resident Barbara Anne Kirshner is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of “Madison Weatherbee —The Different Dachshund.”

 

Deirdre Dubato, president of the Rotary Club of Rocky Point, said that when she first heard of the Million Mask Challenge just after Christmas, she knew her club had to get involved. 

Along with other Long Island-based rotaries, the Million Mask Challenge is inspired to help people in need of masks within the community.

Earlier this month, 40 rotaries from Brooklyn to Montauk gathered in Hicksville to retrieve a batch of masks to distribute to schools, food pantries and shelters. 

The Million Mask Challenge — originally created by Rotary International — began when The Rossi Family Foundation donated hundreds of thousands of masks to the local chapter, in hopes that along with the donation, more masks could be acquired and reach a million people worldwide.

Dubato said that since they gathered in early January, 14,000 adult masks and 1,000 kids-sized masks were brought to different organizations.

“Every soup kitchen, food pantry and school district are having issues finding masks,” she said.

So, they decided to help out by donating to local spots that were in need. The 1,000 children’s masks went to the North Shore Youth Council and to Blessings in a Backpack — which helps students in the Longwood Central School District. 

And it won’t stop there. Dubato said that as long as they keep gaining masks, they will continue to distribute them. 

The Rotary Club of Rocky Point covers the Rocky Point, Miller Place, Shoreham-Wading River, Middle Island and Longwood School districts.

Dubato said they’re always looking for new members. 

“If giving back to the community is your goal,” she said, “Then you are welcome.”

The Port Jefferson Rotary Club is just one of many rotaries across Long Island with the goal to donate a million masks worldwide. Photo from Bob Huttemeyer

The Port Jefferson Rotary Club joined other Long Island-based rotaries to help people in need of masks earlier this month to gather and distribute masks to people who need them in their local communities. 

In a campaign called The Million Mask Challenge — originally created by Rotary International — the Port Jeff Rotary joined 40 other rotaries from district 7255 to gather their share of masks. The goal is to distribute a million masks to those in need worldwide. 

According to Bob Huttemeyer, program coordinator of the rotary, the district that includes Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens, gathered in Hicksville on Wednesday, Jan. 13 to pick up almost 4,000 masks. They also ordered 5,000 more. 

Huttemeyer said that as of right now, they distributed the masks to 24 different local organizations and groups who could use extra masks. 

“Everyone was excited to fill a need,” he added. “We were happy to bring this to the local community.”

The rotary, like the others across the island, devote their time and services to helping the community. Huttemeyer said that throughout the pandemic, they raised more than $12,500 to donate to Open Cupboard Food Pantry.

“If there’s more to be had,” he said, “We’re there to help.”

Huttemeyer said that the local rotary is an organization that brings so much to the community and will continue to gather and distribute masks to meet the one-million mark. He added that are always looking for new members or donations. 

Right now, the Port Jefferson Rotary is holding small, in-person and hybrid meetings at Café Spiga in Mount Sinai on Tuesdays at 12:15 p.m. 

To make a donation to the Port Jefferson Rotary, you can mail a check to PO Box 461, Port Jefferson, NY, 11777 or visit portjeffrotary.org.

Male cardinal. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Three things I want to tell you about today. 

The first is of a friend who knocks on my window each day that the sun is out. At first, he annoyed me, distracting me from my keyboard or my Zoom screen. But as the social distancing and the isolating in place have continued, I changed my tune. 

When he doesn’t come, I miss him for he keeps me company. He has brought color to my winter world with his improbable crimson feathers easy to spot among the brown limbs of the naked trees and the often slate sky. By now you have probably guessed that I am referring to a cardinal, one who calls my property his home, too. 

He is not just content to share my trees, however. He wants in to my house. Well, not exactly. When the sun is shining, he sees a reflection of my surrounding bushes in my glass windows and thinks he can just continue to fly in their direction. I give him a high mark for determination because he tries over and over again. 

At the same time, I have to give him a low mark for intelligence because he doesn’t seem to learn from his abrupt crashes that the way is blocked for him. I guess the term “bird brain” would be appropriate, but I don’t want to discourage him since he reminds me that there is life outside my house, and he doesn’t seem to cause himself any damage with his efforts.

The second thing to share is that we have binged our way through the eight episodes of “Bridgerton,” a new historic series on Netflix, and I would give it a B+. It’s a little slow and talky, in the way of Jane Austen, but it has real worth for some of its subject matter. The main theme deals with the impossible position of upper class women in 19th century Europe.

The poor things had but two goals in life: to marry well and to produce heirs. This was for the good of the family and only incidentally for their own benefit, so they suffered from lots of family pressure and control. That’s old hat, though, for us 21st century viewers.

However, the series is somewhat original for populating London in the 1800s with a totally integrated cast. The Duke is black and the debutante is white, but that’s just for starters. The one theme that’s absent is any discussion of racism. There is none. You can pretty well guess how the love story ends up, but it’s fun watching the couple and their supporting cast get there.

The third subject is more serious and important to share. You know by now that our new president is making it mandatory to wear face masks in federal buildings and on planes, trains and buses that cross state lines. He is also urging the rest of us to wear masks at least for his first 100 days in office. “Observational studies have suggested that widespread mask wearing can curb infections and deaths on an impressive scale, in settings as small as hair salons and at the level of entire countries,” according to an article by Katherine J. Wu in the Science section of this past Tuesday’s The New York Times.

Now comes further advice about mask wearing. Double-masking is even better and for obvious reasons. In order for the droplets that carry the virus to get to our nose and mouth, they have to work their way through the tangle of threads in a cloth mask or the filter in a surgical one. Double the masks and we double the difficulty. The best arrangement, we are advised, would be a face-hugging cloth mask over a surgical mask. As if one weren’t miserable enough, now we are urged two.

Yes, the vaccines are here and more are coming, but it will take a while for the logistics of delivery to get ironed out. And the numbers of patients stricken with the disease keep escalating, so we have to continue to maintain our distancing, our hygiene and yes, our masks.

Fairfield at St. James residents wanted to help the Smithtown community by gathering and donating tons of groceries to those suffering from food insecurity. Photo from Nicole Garguilo

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, everyday people felt that it was their civic duties to step up and make a difference. Some made masks, some drove around supplies, others gathered food for those who were hungry. 

Many of these people had jobs, families and their own struggles at home, but they knew they wanted to be a part of something bigger. They chose early on what side of history they were going to be on, the side that helped others and made a difference. 

“The sacrifice everyone made was apparent,” Carmela Newman with Operation Headband, said. “I grew tenfold from working with such amazing people.”

Operation Headband started out when Newman’s friends at local hospitals said their ears were red and raw from wearing uncomfortable masks all day. An avid sewer, she would volunteer and help sew costumes for local theater productions before the pandemic. 

“Me and my sewing buddy Bernice Daly put buttons on headbands and attached the elastic from the face masks, so it was off their ears,” she said. 

Then it took off. Her nurse friends began requesting them, first at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson and then at Stony Brook University Hospital. Quickly, hospitals and facilities across Long Island were reaching out to Newman and her sewing friends in hopes they could get these comfortable accessories. The demand became so high that they ended up making a Facebook group and recruited other volunteers. 

The Ronkonkoma native said she couldn’t have done this alone. Newman credits Terry Ginzberg, Peter Graber, Teresa Mattison and Jeffrey Sanzel for being part of the team. 

“It was a fabrication of everyone coming together,” she said, the pun being intentional. “Everyone jumped on board to help. We became fast friends and family.”

Toward the end of the first wave of the pandemic, Newman said Operation Headband created 6,000 headbands and bandanas overall. Over 40 people volunteered to deliver the items while 15 sewers put the pieces together. In a little over four months, the group’s headbands helped health care professionals from the East End to Manhattan, in seven different states and made their way overseas to the U.K. “The group cared so much to be a part of this horrific thing that was out of our control,” she said. “There was no way we weren’t going to do this.”

Volunteers from LIOSMS. Photo from Kassay

Although it seems that everywhere one looks now there are masks, early on they were hard to find. That’s why Port Jefferson resident, one who would later become village trustee, Rebecca Kassay, started up a volunteer group that delivered over 40,000 PPE and comfort-care items to essential workers. 

Long Island Open Source Medical Supplies-Nassau and Suffolk County is celebrated for creating a Facebook group of hundreds of volunteers across the Island who gathered, purchased, created, donated and delivered PPE for frontline workers. 

“From mid-June through September, we continued to accept donations of PPE from makers, as well as connecting volunteers who want to continue making them to community groups that will get PPE to low-income families and students in school districts, individuals in shelters, Indigenous populations and other at-risk groups,” Kassay said.

More than 300 seamstresses, crafters and makers made and donated more than 15,000 face masks, 2,800 caps, 5,000 face shields, 12,000 ear savers and over 10,000 comfort-care items. Their fleet of 68 volunteer drivers worked hard to deliver the homemade PPE to over 130 facilities and collaborated with other volunteer groups by donating and exchanging fabric and materials.

It started when Kassay, with other local volunteers, began to see the demand for PPE and the need for help in hospitals. Her home, The Fox and Owl Inn in Port Jeff, became “the hub” that got things going. She and her fellow volunteers created a group that allowed people to communicate with one another with extraordinary teamwork. 

“After about a week it was growing so fast,” she said. “It ended up with 10 administrators managing a couple of hundred volunteers, selling masks, driving around materials, donating 3D-printed face shields, communicating with hospitals. The effort was to make everything much more efficient.”

But she said she truly couldn’t have done it alone. 

“Eleni Stamatinos was the mask coordinator and also helped train and coordinate with the other administrators,” Kassay said, adding that Stamatinos would work alongside her for 10-14 hours a day. “She has grown to be a dear friend of mine. While there has been immense tragedy during the pandemic, we have found beauty in the connections that might not have happened otherwise.”

And then there were volunteers she worked with, who spent hours helping out. 

“There are also countless Port Jefferson and surrounding area residents who contributed more time, heart and materials than I could’ve ever hoped for,” Kassay said. “We were driven by the satisfaction of bringing comfort to others. Other opportunities and priorities were pushed aside because of the urgency we all felt in the moment, and none of us regret it.”

While masks and other PPE were needed for frontline workers and the rest of the community, other volunteers dedicated their time at home to feed those who are struggling with food insecurity.

Fairfield at St. James residents donated tons of food. Photo from Nicole Garguilo

Nicole Garguilo, public information officer with the Town of Smithtown, said Fairfield at St. James, a senior living community, stepped up to help.

“They knew that they were high risk for the virus, but still wanted to help,” she said. “So, every month they’d get in a car caravan together, loaded up with nonperishables and meet us at the Gyrodyne parking lot.”

The town then delivered the food to Island Harvest of Hauppauge on their behalf. 

“It was really something to see our seniors put helping others in need before their own safety,” Garguilo said.

Carol Walsh, an 82-year-old resident at the community, was just one of the dozens of seniors who wanted to help.

“I know there are so many people who are hungry,” she said. “The feeling of isolation is so overwhelming, and people forget that others are out there who want to care and make people feel better. If we can make people smile and provide food it’s worth it.”

Walsh said their food caravans would often have between six and eight cars full of food. In September and October, they donated their collection to Island Harvest, but this month they brought more goods to the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry. 

Denise Tortore & Rosane Ackley at Mather Hospital with Meals on Wheels. Photo from Meals on Wheels

And while these seniors collected nonperishables, the local chapter of Meals on Wheels brought hot and cold meals to those who were unable to leave their homes. 

Barbara Siegel said the Three Village Meals on Wheels group consists of about 150 volunteers and has been delivering food to those in need five days a week for 38 years.

Partnering with the kitchens at Port Jefferson’s Mather and St. Charles hospitals and Setauket Village Diner, a cold lunch and a hot dinner are delivered to people who are homebound. Siegel said that other chapters of Meals on Wheels had to temporarily shut down during the pandemic but not the Stony Brook operation, which covers from St. James, across the North Shore into Mount Sinai, down into Coram and toward Lake Grove. 

“We got more calls during pandemic,” Siegel said. 

And although Siegel thanks and appreciates all the volunteers who gave up their free time to drive around Suffolk County delivering these dishes, she said it wouldn’t have been possible without the office staff coordinating it all: Ruth Spear, Ronnie Kreitzer and Linda Bernstein.

Siegel said Spear is a caring individual, always cheerful when someone calls the office, willing to help them with whatever inquiry they have. Bernstein takes care of the financial side of things, while Kreitzer coordinates the driver routes. 

“The three ladies that are in the office are just invaluable — they never stop,” Siegel said. “They go to sleep at night and their heads are still going thinking about tomorrow. They do it from their heart and soul.”

But Spear was modest, saying it was a collaborative team effort.

“It’s just our job,” she said.

Kathleen Weinberger, Aramark Nutrition Services food service director with Kings Park school district, helped feed hundreds of students throughout the pandemic.

Aramark Nutrition Services delivering food. Photo from Weinberger

Weinberger said that at the start of the pandemic, she reacted and considered what the safest way to help families would be during the crisis. Aramark employees worked alongside the school district to incorporate a breakfast and lunch grab-and-go window at the high school. They also incorporated a Meals on Wheels bus delivery system with district bus drivers to those families who had no means of transportation.

From March 16 until June 30, they distributed 28,406 meals, seven days a week.

“There were many special moments from seeing their smiles on their faces and the wonderful handwritten ‘thank you’ notes and pictures drawn by the kids that really warmed my heart,” Weinberger said. 

The Kings Park resident said it’s important to consider others, not just during a crisis but every day. 

“People should gather together in good times, as well as difficult times, as it makes stronger ties within the community,” she said. “I’m willing to do whatever I can to lend a helping hand.”

Kids enjoy a treat at McNulty's Ice Cream Parlor in Miller Place. With seating outside, social distancing is a breeze, yet inside some people still give shops problems about wearing masks. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Odeya Rosenband

As they work to optimize their indoor and outdoor dining rooms, local restaurants are forced to become constables for new policies: masks. 

Beginning in July, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) laid out new regulations for food vendors as Long Island entered Phase 4. With the reopening of indoor dining rooms to half capacity, the Governor imposed subsequent restrictions on bar services, now requiring each restaurant patron to order a food item with a beverage. 

McNulty’s Ice Cream Parlor in Miller Place is a hometown favorite. Photo by Kyle Barr

But even as regulations are ever-changing, the requirement to wear masks stays the same. 

The challenge with masks is that unlike other guidelines, it is harder for restaurants to control. Gail McNulty, the owner of McNulty’s Ice Cream Parlor in Miller Place described how “it is very routine for our workers to put on a mask as soon as we come in the door, and so we are modeling this good behavior. And if a customer doesn’t have a mask, we can provide them with a disposable one.” 

These provisions have proven successful for McNulty, who describes her clients as highly conscientious and respectful when it comes to masks. 

“This is my community and these are my friends,” she said. “I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing… that’s the only way, and it’s our way.”

According to the state guidelines, customers are required to wear a mask when they are moving around the premises of a restaurant’s property, but can take their mask’s off when seated. A restaurant can lawfully deny anyone who declines to wear a mask — which, even McNulty said she had to do at one point. 

So, why do so many people refuse to wear a mask?

Stanley Feldman, a political professor at Stony Brook University, said wearing masks has become a part of political identity. Photo from SBU

“A major factor is partisanship,” said Stanley Feldman, a professor of Political Science at Stony Brook University. “It is clear that one of the things that has happened is that largely, Democratic Governors and Mayors come out strongly in favor of masks. And so, wearing a mask or not has gotten tied up with this identification of being a Democrat or Republican… and partisanship is a very strong identity.”

Feldman, who specializes in political psychology, also noted that if President Trump had enforced masks in March or April, there “is a good likelihood that there would be less of a partisan division on masks.” President Donald Trump (R) has largely been opposed to making masks a federal requirement, and he himself has gone back and forth on the need for himself to wear a mask when in public.

Recent surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center demonstrate that when it comes to wearing a mask, the gap between Republicans and Democrats is only growing. According to the study, this increase can be attributed to a shift in attitudes toward the virus. 

“A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (61%) now say that when thinking about the problems facing the country from the coronavirus, ‘the worst is behind us,’” the study says. 

By contrast, just 23 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning people say that the worst is behind us when it comes to problems from the coronavirus. For Republicans, this is a sizable change since April, when 56 percent said the worst of the virus was yet to come.

 “How on earth would these differences be so massive if it wasn’t a political issue?” said Leonie Huddy, the department chair and professor of Political Science at SBU.

Huddy pointed out another indicator of different mask tendencies: gender. 

“Trump sent out the message that wearing a mask isn’t masculine — and there do appear to be some gender differences in who is wearing a mask,” he said.

Although Long Island has done a good job with enforcing masks,  Feldman said he never expected that compliance would be 100 percent. 

“The US has this political culture of government not telling you what to do,” he said. “And so I think, to some extent, there’s some reaction against wearing a mask because it appears to be mandated by the government and some people think it’s infringing on their liberty.”

Feldman added, “I think the most important thing is that there is a strong uniform message. It has got to come from politicians in both parties and people who are influential. They need to try to send the message that wearing a mask is the right thing to do.”

While the return to restaurant eating is a return to normalcy for many, the masks are a reminder of how far New York has come and how far it has yet to go in terms of grappling with the pandemic. As local restaurants inch back to their pre-COVID statuses, it remains that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) mask guidelines are here to stay. 

“I think New York is a good example of people who are very well behaved,” Huddy said. “I think worrying about getting the disease, gives you a different perspective.”

METRO photo

With Long Island now entering Phase 3 of reopening, masks are as important as ever. More people out and about necessarily means an increase in exposure to others and potentially COVID-19. Though what has confounded us is the seeming semipolitical divide regarding masks made to protect each other from the coronavirus. Somehow whether to wear one has become a political issue instead of a health matter.

We get it. Facial coverings can be uncomfortable at times, but the discomfort is worth it for the greater good. Think about it. Women through the centuries have worn many uncomfortable undergarments for the sake of looking good, and men’s ties can be a nuisance but many wear them because of dress codes at work or to impress at special events. Just think, once upon a time, women risked fainting when their corsets were too tight simply because they wanted their waists to look smaller. A mask is much less of a fashion statement, but it has proven to significantly reduce the chances of catching the virus by over 90 percent if two individuals in close proximity are wearing face coverings. 

When COVID-19 first hit our shores, information was confusing. All medical researchers could go on were similar viruses and what was going on in other countries. As they watched people snatch up N95 masks that were vital for health care and other frontline workers, it’s understandable that some scientists suggested members of the general population refrain from buying or wearing them.

Then it was discovered that if one wears a facial covering of any type, when sneezing or coughing, the distance droplets travel was reduced drastically. While the mask itself may not protect the wearer itself, it does protect others. Meaning if the majority of people wear them, community protection is increased.

We say majority because even Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive order says children under 2 and those with certain medical problems are exempt from wearing them.

When mandatory shutdowns first began, there were concerns that the U.S. economy would be destroyed, and small businesses would take the biggest hit. As we go back to dining and shopping, wearing a mask to protect business owners and their employees, as well as fellow customers, is vital in keeping the number of COVID-19 cases down and keeping local commerce running smoothly.

Let’s also remember to be mindful in restaurants as they begin to reopen, especially since diners can’t wear masks while eating and drinking. We can take extra care including washing our hands to help protect workers, not lingering at tables and perhaps even tipping extra since employees might be working outside in the heat with masks on, not to mention many have been out of work for months.

We are heading into summer, and it seems like all of New York wants to pretend the pandemic was nothing more than a bad dream. We have to remember that cases have increased drastically in just the past few days. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows there were more than 30,000 new cases in the South, West and Midwest just this past weekend. Health officials now seriously have to consider for and prepare for a potential second wave in the fall.

Let’s take the politics out of wearing a face covering. If people can wear something uncomfortable because they feel they look better or to comply with a dress code, then why not a mask. It may not make us look more attractive, but it helps us to keep our neighbors healthy. To us, that takes priority.

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Rohan Singh and his brother Rishabh holding the masks they have been making on a 3D printer. Photo from Singh

Young Belle Terre resident Rohan Singh, at home during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, told himself he needed to do something to help the surrounding community using GoFundMe and a 3D Printer.

Singh’s father, Ravi, is a doctor working in Patchogue, and so from both him and the news in general, he said he heard about the general lack of personal protective equipment from hospitals all around Long Island. He said, speaking with his dad, he learned of his father’s old colleague from college, who now works at Japan-based company Aizome Bedding. The business originally created pillows and beds, but has since transferred to making N95 masks. 

These masks, in today’s world costs $2.50 each. To get 1,000 of these would require $2,500. Taking to GoFundMe, Rohan made up the amount by donations in five days. He said he plans to distribute the masks to Mather Hospital and Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue, the medical center his father works closely with.

“After talking to my dad, I asked what I can do to help,” he said.

Looking to do more, Singh looked into 3D printing. The first time using the device, he said it was difficult at first, but now with six masks under his belt he is joining the legions of people looking to help hospital workers by producing his own PPE. Each takes about five hours to print, and so far he has produced six masks. 

“This isn’t the first time Rohan has tried to make  a difference. When he was in fifth grade, he won the Suffolk County Social service award for collecting and distributing left over pencils for an orphanage in India,” Singh’s mother Priyanka said. “He manned a Farmers Market stall in Port Jefferson selling Samosas to raise money for a prosthetic foot camp as a sophomore in high school. So during this pandemic it didn’t surprise us that he wanted to use his time in quarantine to try and help people in the front line.”

The Port Jeff high school student said he is also looking long term.

“I want to think of the bigger picture, think of something more like industrial alternative masks that don’t take up as much time to print,” he said.

Singh’s GoFundMe can be found here. More and more people are reaching out and doing their part to support hospitals in their time of need. Visit here to see how locals have been making handmade PPE for hospitals and keep up with TBR News Media to see how locals are giving back to healthcare workers.

Bob and MaryLou Whitcomb at their house in Old Field cutting up fabric for the homemade masks. Their neighbor Christine Matthews, along with her children, finishes the job by sewing them. Photo from MaryLou Whitcomb

As hospitals experience a significant lack of protective masks during the growing coronavirus pandemic, locals are looking for ways to assist, using on-hand materials and their own equipment. 

Christine Matthews, along with her children, helps create masks for healthcare workers at her house in Old Field. Photo from MaryLou Whitcomb

Rebecca Kassay, who co-owns the Fox and Owl Inn in Port Jefferson, started a Facebook group, Suffolk County Creators of COVID19 Medical Supplies, to not only get the word out that there’s a need for homemade supplies but also to make sure locals are crafting these items the right way.

Kassay said there has been a growing demand for aid, and with so many people home from work and school, many are looking for ways they can help out.

“That’s what the group is aiming to do — to focus all of that information into one place,” she said.

Groups like Kassay’s have popped up all across the country as news of this lack of personal protective equipment grows. A national Facebook group called Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies has put forward a countrywide initiative to crowdsource more of these protective items. This mainly includes gloves, gowns and masks.

The Suffolk group is just getting its legs but have already confirmed donations are accepted in several local places, including the Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, Pax Christi homeless shelter in Port Jeff, Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen in Port Jeff and Stony Brook University Hospital.

Kassay said the point of her group is to make sure people are making masks to a rigorous standard, following instructions provided by multiple sites including www.project-cloth-masks.com as well as documents provided by the OSCMS.

Angela Clayton, a historical costume designer from Manorville, said she started making masks because she had both the material and the skillset, and knew she needed to put them to use.

“I’m lucky to be financially stable and healthy, I wanted to help in any way I could,” she said. 

The costume designer has been making masks from 100 percent cotton fabric, which can be used as a mask or as a cover for the more sought after N95 medical masks. She got her designs from www.makemasks2020.org, which not only gives designs but partners with groups around the country to get specifically requested designs from the makers to those who need them. 

People all over Long Island have caught onto this trend. Old Field residents Bob and MaryLou Whitcomb, along with their neighbor Christine Matthews and her children Nicole and Connor, have been crafting handmade masks since Friday, March 20. MaryLou said the idea came after a phone call with her sister in Boston, with the person on the other end upset of her own close family members working in the health care field while severely lacking supplies of masks.

So far, the neighborhood team has made around 200 masks, which were mailed to Whitcomb’s sister. They have made masks for doctors in the Old Field area and also have plans to ship more to NYU Langone hospital.

“I thought to myself, we’re all sitting around — why don’t we do something?” MaryLou said. 

There are some issues, including accessing supplies, particularly in terms of elastic, which has proved hard to come by. The Suffolk County Creators group has been trying to crowdsource materials from people who have it, especially the elastic bands. Though now there are more and more examples of people making ties from fabric instead.

Angela Clayton, a historical costume designer from Manorville, has been designing masks for healthcare workers. Photo from Clayton’s instagram

Though area hospitals are loath to admit it, officials have said there is a general lack of PPE material in nearly every medical sector. Some of this is due to people hoarding such devices since the start of the outbreak. As cases ramp up, hospital workers have been dealing with the shortage. There are reported cases of hospital workers using masks meant for just a single encounter for over a week. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said there are some facilities, including nursing homes, first responders as well as hospitals, that have been reduced to a pittance of the preventative garb and devices.

Though Stony Brook University Hospital officials have said they “have supplies, but need more,” they have started accepting PPE donations. 

“It’s amazing how people can come together to support one another in a time of crisis,” said Stony Brook University Hospital CEO Carol Gomes in an email statement. “We are grateful for the community’s willingness to help one another. We’re all in this together.”

A Stony Brook spokesperson said the hospital is “open to accepting all kinds of donations at this time. They will then be sorted and distributed appropriately.”

Despite this, Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott said in a phone call with reporters that masks need to be certified if they are to be of any use. Making masks at home is “not advised — we’re looking for masks that can help filter out the virus,” he said. “They need to be certified and tested.”

Kassay said she agrees these masks are not replacements for the professionally made and certified items normally used in the health care sector. At the same time, while other health care providers may have better access to the high filtering top-of-the-line N95 masks, people who work for food pantries, food banks or even just in retail do not have the same access to the high-grade PPE items. Not to mention, there are several designs for masks that can go over the N95 types, potentially allowing them to last longer without being soiled.

For those looking to get into making masks, Clayton said its best to order materials remotely and not threaten the spread of the virus. Use the resources available and try and contact groups that may need masks but are not in the medical field, such as shelters, clinics or senior centers to see what they may need as well.

Kassay said these homemade masks, at the very least, help remind people not to touch their nose or mouth, which experts have recommended people restrict themselves from doing.

“Something is better than nothing,” Kassay said. “We’re all living in this unprecedented time, we’re all wondering what we can do. You want to make sure you’re doing something in the best way possible.” 

County Solicits PPE Supplies from Local Companies

In calls to reporters, Bellone said they simply do not have enough beds and other supplies for what still could be a ballooning of the number of coronavirus cases. Hospitals, officials warned, could be overwhelmed as we head toward a peak number of cases. 

The county announced a donation drive for medical supplies. They are looking for donations of N95 masks, ear loop face masks, gowns and gloves from the construction industry, building trades and others in organized labor, as they are supplies that are often used on work sites. Additionally, the county is soliciting donations of ear loop masks and gloves from the personal service industry.

By the end of Monday, the first day of the drive, Bellone said they have already received “an incredible amount of outpouring and support.” This included 40,000 gloves of various sizes, 3,000 N95 masks, 1,500 gowns and over 3,000 ear loop masks.

Donations can be delivered to the Suffolk County Fire Academy located at 102 East Ave. in Yaphank between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays. Residents can email [email protected] regarding a large donation of supplies or a potential vendor of opportunity.

“You cannot continue to do these supplies on an ad hoc basis.”

— Andrew Cuomo

As of Monday, Long Island is set to receive 33,976 N95 masks, 86,170 surgical masks, 35,350 gloves, 14,512 gowns and 19,709 face shields. Cuomo admitted that even with these supplies, hospitals will need more especially in the long term.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has said New York hospitals would need to increase the number of intensive care unit beds by approximately 18,000 to 37,000 in total to deal with the peak of the pandemic in New York. The governor put out an executive order saying hospitals must increase the number of beds by at least 50 percent.

Companies like 3M, which manufactures the N95 masks, would be shipping half a million masks to New York and Seattle.

But Cuomo said even such beneficial acts by a few companies belies the need for all such companies to step up to the plate. He has urged the Donald Trump (R) administration to invoke the Defense Production Act, which would allow them to order manufacturers to increase production of much-needed PPE items. The president has signed an executive order invoking the act but has yet to make a single order. Cuomo said those companies would be “paid handsomely” for the effort, but that it was needed more than ever.

“You can’t run this operation that way — it can’t just be based on ‘we’re waiting for people to come forward with offers,’” he said at the Monday press conference. “You cannot continue to do these supplies on an ad hoc basis.”