ASU Employee Gives Away Homemade Masks During COVID-19 Crisis
By Hazel Scott
An Alabama State University staff member has joined the war to fight America’s silent enemy – the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Tonya Scott Williams, who works in ASU’s Social Work Department and is an ASU alumna, sat down in front of her sewing machine and started making face masks for those who needed them the most -- those in an assisted living facility and a health care center.
The Florida native, who now resides in Montgomery, said she initially started making the masks for her family and friends, just before the pandemic blew up. But after she learned about hospitals and clinics having a shortage of supplies, she felt compelled to start sewing and posted online what she was doing. The rest is history.
“A couple of people starting messaging me, one was a local clinic and another one was from an assisted living facility and a few nurses started messaging me as well. So I started sewing as many masks as I could to distribute to these facilities. I also hope to fulfill as many requests from nurses who've contacted me,” she said.
Williams’ masks are made out of new,tightly-woven cotton fabric, elastic and other materials, such as felt for the mask's filter, all of which she had in her sewing closet. People also have donated materials to her, she said. So far, she has made 15 masks, which will go to the assisted living facility, and hope to have another 40 completed soon.
“The masks are pretty sturdy,” Williams said.
Williams remarked that her masks serve a dual purpose.
“There are a lot of people right now suffering from allergies because of pollen season, which can exacerbate problems. So I knew my masks would be helpful in that regard. Also, I had one health care professional say to me in a post online that they didn’t have anything, but something was better than nothing. So just the prospect of them going into a situation where they have to care for people and didn’t have anything at all, I thought I’ll make what I can and at least it will help mitigate the spread of some germs.”
Williams acknowledges that handmade masks are far from ideal, but in areas where N95 masks and surgical masks are in short supply, she said handmade masks are being used to extend the life of medical-grade masks, which would typically be disposed of after seeing a single patient. In some cases, where there's an even greater shortage, homemade masks are being used as a primary form of protection.
“The handmade masks are not meant to replace the N95 masks that a lot of medical professionals use. But given the present shortages of medical-grade protective gear in the midst of a pandemic, they may be the best option for some people,” Williams said.
The coronavirus is a dangerous, airborne illness. It has already rapidly spread to 169 countries, including in the United States. The virus can travel up to 6 feet if you cough, sneeze or vape. Although, when you are out in public, you do not necessarily need the mask, unless you yourself are sick. And if you are sick, it is advised that you do not go out in public.”
When asked how she feels about being called a hero for filling a health gap during a world crisis, Williams humbly said she hadn’t thought about it.
”However, I am grateful that I have a gift that is helpful,” she said. “There are so many people who are stepping up right now and using their gifts during this critical time.”
In between working at ASU and taking care of her daughter, Williams owns a small business, a voiceover and production company.
Tonya Scott Williams, who works in ASU’s Social Work Department, fits a mask on her daughter that she sewed. She is making masks to fight the coronovirus.