Coronavirus: AIDS Memorial Quilt volunteers using extra fabric to sew masks

SAN FRANCISCO -- More than a dozen volunteers with the National AIDS Memorial Quilt are using leftover fabric and putting their sewing skills to use during the coronavirus pandemic by creating masks for the Bay Area's homeless and service providers.

According to the organization, its volunteers have begun mobilizing to make reusable masks for staff and clients of Oakland-based Bay Area Community Services.

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The masks have room to insert a surgical mask inside, turning it into a washable cover for better protection and longer use. They can also be worn over an N95 mask, according to the organization.

The volunteers are working in isolation to sew the masks, making more than 400 in the first week.

Masks have already been delivered to BACS to help protect its clients and 250 staff members who work to provide more than 8,000 homeless people annually with housing, meals and mental health services.

"These last few weeks have been difficult for anybody who was already living on the margins of society - isolated due to mental health issues, housing insecurity, or those experiencing homelessness," BACS CEO Jamie Almanza said in a statement. "Uncertainty takes a toll on all of us, including our brave team members, and to be uplifted by such a historic local group is what sustains our team, our work, and our participants."

Just before the shelter-place-order due to the coronavirus, the 48,000-panel quilt, each representing a life lost by AIDS, was set to come to San Francisco from Atlanta for the largest display of the quilt in San Francisco history, but the event has since been postponed.

John Cunningham, executive director of the National AIDS Memorial said, "We hold closely our responsibility to ensure the story of the AIDS pandemic and related public health issues remain at the heart of what we do to support our communities, particularly during these difficult times.

"I am so proud of our volunteers who are doing their part to help the heroes on the front-line of this pandemic, the health professionals who are risking their lives to save lives," Cunningham said.
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