In these times of worldwide coronavirus, islanders have stepped up in a big way to make personal protective equipment and get it where it’s needed most. Following news earlier this week that Mt. Vernon choir members who appeared asymptomatic–tested positive for the virus following a March 10 gathering, with two of the members dying later–there is a need to wear masks when out in public.
Since March 20 a Facebook page of 415 members and growing is up and running: Whidbey Personal Protective DIYers. The island-wide group has organized to make masks for healthcare workers and employees engaged with the public. As of last night—April 2—more than 1,243 masks were made. The group provides a forum for members to trade requests, share information and deliver the items.
The Atlantis STEAM, a non-profit, internationally winning youth robotics team are making face shields, respirator shields, and parts for ventilators, based on expert advice. While this story was going to include their extraordinary work, look for a separate story on their meteoric trajectory in the next few days. Some of the vinyl used for face shields was donated by Casey’s Crafts, after getting a call from Atlantis STEAM coach Ashley Bystrin, who is grateful to store owner Laurie Davenport for the donation.
“Laurie Davenport has supported us for years and literally opened up her store and gave me a whole roll of vinyl,” Ashley said. We put out a call for elastic. People responded. The island’s two robotic clubs, Atlantis Steam and Whidbey Island Wildcats in Oak Harbor, are making masks, shields and more. We have heard the outbreak’s peak will be between April 7 and 21st. We are part of the solution—the kids are special in that way in that they are all committed to stepping up.”
Donations can be sent to atlantissteam.org or mailed to P.O. Box 1157 Clinton, WA 98236.
Only weeks ago, Sharon Emerson, a retired nurse, and former owner of Island Home Nursing, saw the contagion wave coming and suggested making masks. The idea spread with others of like mind. If you visit Sharon’s Facebook page, you’ll see this quote: “My mask protects you from me. Your mask protects me from you. Please help me stay safe-wear a mask or even a bandana.” She has been part of the wave to protect us.
“I’m a medical person and all medical people I know are sucking up all the information they can,” she said. “I might have been one of the early adopters who are strongly and persuasively saying we should all be ahead of the game. I did see pretty quickly the crunch would be in getting elastic. I ordered from several different sources. All my orders went through, including 50 yard rolls of braided elastic. All but one ended being cancelled. I’m getting more. I’m making masks. That is what I spend most of my day doing. I have made a ton of them. There are so many asymptomatic carriers. Up to half don’t have any symptoms. What the DIYers are doing is astonishing and wonderful. This is a horrible situation and it’s wonderful to see the community coming together.”
Artist/teacher Gretchen Lawlor has her Woodhaven teen art students sewing masks. She swims daily in the Sound to keep her courage and strength up.
‘It gives me a sense of courage,” Gretchen wrote in emails. “I am trying to do everything I can for people’s safety and courage. The mask thing is working so well. All these wonderful people sewing. We are on the crest of this wave, keeping our spirits up. Weaving together of this community—with its generosity and enthusiasm. I am stunned. Everyone is finding their own way. Other initiatives starting. We are an awesome, awesome community.
“My passion is with kids and teenagers. This is the vision quest for their lives. I would like to have this replicated in other places. We are connected via Zoom. Every one of the kids I’m working with is a major support in their family. This mask thing flows.
This Is Whidbey was founded by Kate Poss for readers who are interested in cultivating our island’s quality of life, including its land, sea, and air; its people, plants, and animals; and the bodies, minds, and spirits of its inhabitants. You may know Kate from her work in island libraries through May of 2016. Her background includes a career in newspaper reporting in Los Angeles for various weeklies and dailies, including The Los Angeles Times. She was a frequent contributor to the online Whidbey Life Magazine and still writes for the biannual print magazine.
Stories are highlighted by David Welton’s excellent photography. David is a retired physician who was a staff photographer for Whidbey Life Magazine since its early days. His work has also appeared in museums, art galleries, newspapers, regional and national magazines, books, nonprofit publicity, and on the back of the Whidbey Sea-Tac Shuttle!