Mask-making taken up by Mason students

Jessica Wang | Staff Writer

In just a few months, COVID-19 has become one of the most contagious diseases in recent history, and students at Mason High School are taking it upon themselves to slow the spread.

Following guidelines set by Governor Mike DeWine — and the federal government — senior Rachel Zhan has been doing her part by social distancing. Stuck at home, Zhan found herself searching for a new quarantine hobby — and with dire lack of facemasks, she found the perfect one.

“I started [making masks] because I wanted to do something during quarantine,” Zhan said. “I had an impulse to buy a sewing machine because I was watching a lot of sewing videos. And once I bought my sewing machine I was like why not.”

Learning that a woman within her church was helping make and donate masks through an organization called Sew Masks 4 Cincy, Zhan was inspired to do the same. She says the process, however, is quite meticulous.

“There’s a lot of measuring, tracing, ironing and cutting before the sewing,” Zhan said. “I do things step by step. I’ll measure and cut 20 squares before I iron, and then iron all 20 before I sew, etc. I think I’ve made around 30 at this point in time, but there’s some people out there who make like 100 in one sitting. It’s crazy. But, you can go a lot faster if you have better tools or get your family to help with the cutting and ironing!”

The masks that Zhan makes get donated to hospitals, police departments, and other frontline facilities. So, while Zhan is not able to make medical-grade masks such as N95, her hard-work is still making a significant impact. 

“It’s preferred to use very tight-knit fabric like 100% cotton,” Zhan said. “The hospitals will sanitize the masks when they get them and insert filters for the styles that allow that. Right now, I think they’re being used as covers to lengthen the lifespan of the hospital sterilized masks.”

Senior Soumya Vytla is similarly trying to help flatten the curve. Through a program called Be Your Best Self, she is leading an army of fifth and sixth graders to make the most of this time of quarantine.

“[Making facemasks] was a fun DIY activity to get the [fifth and sixth] graders motivated,” Vytla said. “But I let them know at the end that these [masks] don’t follow regulations for workers.” 

While these facemasks can’t be used on the frontlines, according to the CDC, for the average-joe, even wearing simple cloth masks can help prevent the virus from spreading. But what is perhaps more important is that through this activity, Vytla is helping the younger students stay not only physically, but also mentally healthy.

“I think this program is so fitting right now because the biggest issue is motivation as we continue to self-isolate,” Vytla said. “By coming together through the Zoom calls, we can learn so much from each other about different ways to stay healthy, be studious, and be involved. We get to motivate each other to continue being our best self everyday while learning about how to adapt to this new normal.” 

Graphic by Aadrija Biswas.