NY mandate kicks local mask makers into overdrive

Updated: Apr. 16, 2020 at 5:49 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Local people are busy making face masks as the statewide mask mandate goes into effect Friday.

In a Watertown home is a family busy sewing away. They call themselves The Free Mask Mission.

Working about 12 hours each day, pumping out 100 to 150 masks, they've made almost 1,800 over the last three weeks. All of them are donated; the family just wants to help and try to prevent the spread.

"We started out small, just hospitals and, ya know, emergency, like essential personnel and then it just kept spiraling, the snowball just kept getting bigger, bigger and bigger," said Katrina Brown, The Free Mask Mission.

Each family member has a job - someone cuts elastic, others sew or pleat fabric, while another runs orders to the mailbox or plays secretary - just trying to keep up with all the orders coming in.

That job got tougher after Governor Cuomo's announcement Wednesday that all New Yorkers would have to wear face masks or coverings while out in public if social distancing can't be maintained.

"It's definitely exploded since then. We've gotten pretty overwhelmed with orders," said Alyse Salmons, The Free Mask Mission "Literally, we were walking in the store to get supplies, and our phones were going off nonstop. Chimes from Facebook, I mean, text messages, just everybody coming in, businesses like can we get 50 by tomorrow."

Also slammed Thursday morning was Downtown Julie Brown Marketplace in Watertown. Met by a line at the door when they opened, the store was wiped out of adult masks in 40 minutes.

"There's been quite a demand for the masks," said co-owner Julie Lichtenauer.

The store started selling them last week after asking 6 or 7 of its vendors who sell their products at the store if they could make them.

"Our store is made up of over 30 different vendors. A lot of them already sew, so it was easy to convert what they were sewing into making masks," said Lichtenauer.

Roxann Hanlin of Retro Roxy Sewing also has been at the sewing machine, making more than 300 masks over the last month. She's also now getting more requests from people wanting them for personal use.

"Basically I'm getting 4 or 5 a day now," she said.

Governor Cuomo says no fines will be issued for not wearing a mask, but he’s not ruling it out.

Copyright 2020 WWNY. All rights reserved.