Jill Seymour, Prince Rupert ‘seamster’ on April 9, answers the call from local physicians to encourage the public to wear masks while out in public to lessen the spread of the coronavirus. Seymour is providing masks to the public by donation. Donations allow for her to continue the flow of mask production. (Photo supplied: Jill Seymour)

Prince Rupert faces mask shortage head on

Doctors’ call for public to wear face masks has locals seaming up the problem

Many Prince Rupert sewers are answering the call from local doctors to face the COVID-19 mask shortage head on by hand making cloth masks for use during the pandemic.

In an April 4 letter to Prince Rupert Mayor, Lee Brain and City Council, a group of 19 regional doctors wrote to express their concern about the need for residents to wear facial masks while out in public.

Jill Seymour, a local work from home mom, is one of those stitching re-usable masks during these uncertain times and is a self described “seamster” by profession. She said a ‘seamster’ is “like a hipster only cooler.” Seymour owned a fabric store in town for several years before opening her current business, Fishskin Fabrics.

Seymour has made more than 120 masks for residents in P.R. and offers them to the public by donation. With the donations that have been collected she has been able to continue to sew and has produced more than 120 masks. Her masks can be completed in less than a 24 hour turn around.

READ MORE: B.C. health officer says homemade masks may prevent spread of COVID-19 to others

“In Italy, the USA, and Canada, the COVID-19 epidemic is not under control. Authorities in these countries have told their citizens not to wear masks in public. They are wrong. We need to follow the lead of the Asian countries who have been successful in fighting COVID-19,” the local doctors said in their letter.

“The communities that have flat-lined the COVID-19 curve are ones already comfortable wearing masks in public,”Seymour said.

Seymour started off making scrub caps for the hospital staff and branched out into masks, modifying the local doctor approved pattern slightly to alter the nose bridge. The masks she sews do not have the metal band across the nose but use pleats for more comfort and ease of fit.

“Wearing homemade cloth masks in public (along with social distancing, hand-washing, and quarantine of COVID cases) will help bring the epidemic under control. A cloth mask is not as good as a medical mask, but it is much better than no mask at all,” the doctors said.

Seymour’s masks are made with two layers of high quality quilting fabric, which she said has an effectiveness of in the 70 percentile of particle filtration range, compared to an N-95 mask which filters 95 per cent. As a ‘science geek’, she said she has done the research and combined it with her many years of sewing to make quality masks.

The P.R. doctors also requested for people to not use N-95 medical masks so they can be reserved for medical staff who are most at risk, but, they also gave a strong warning not to place home made masks on young children due to choking risks.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert doctors push for stringent COVID-19 measures

“The bottom line is we don’t know enough about this virus and if all of us wearing masks is going to flat-line the curve and give our researchers time to find a vaccine, then it is a simple choice for me,” Seymour said.

“We physicians are getting masks sewn for ourselves and our families to wear as soon as possible. Please wear a cloth mask in public to protect you and your loved ones,” the group of 19 doctors said unilaterally.

To order a facial covering or to donate to the making of masks, Seymour can be reached through Facebook or through Fishskin Fabric. Orders can be delivered with limited contact and safe social distancing, Seymour said.

K-J Millar | Journalist
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