Coronavirus News: Homemade masks becoming popular during COVID-19 pandemic

ASTORIA, Queens (WABC) -- As the calls for more protective equipment for medical professionals continue amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, some are using their time social distancing to help out.

"I consider them to be art pieces," said Jenni Beckstrom, who has turned her Astoria home into a fabric mask workshop.

She spent years studying fashion in London, and she wanted to contribute since so many are in need of masks.

"What I think helps is being creative, actually being able to create fun and interesting things and not just working and watching Netflix, actually making use out of this time," she said. "I decided to make facemasks because I read online New York City is running out."

There are several videos online, and company websites are showing the public how the make fabric mask. And after posting about it on Instagram, Beckstrom is getting a slew of requests.

"I would say between 50 and 70 requests," she said. "But this also includes nursing homes, people who work at the nursing homes, hospitals."

But despite in demand, experts say the homemade masks are not completely protective.

"It mostly has to do with how they're made, how they fit, and the type of fabric that they are made out of," internist Dr. Jensen Hyde said. "The vast majority of fabrics that are available for commercial use are not tight enough of a weave to really keep out anything. So it's unlikely that those are particularly helpful to the general public."

Dr. Hyde says the coveted N95 mask keep out 95% of particles, while surgical masks keep out about 50-70% percent of particles. But fabric mask might not stop many particles, if any.

And Dr. Hyde warns about the false sense of security all mask, not just the fabric masks, can create. She says that for the general public, they might do more harm than good.

"People put on masks and go places they wouldn't go otherwise or do things they wouldn't do otherwise," she said. "They probably put you at a greater risk because you're probably out there doing things you wouldn't otherwise be doing, instead of following recommendations."

As for Beckstrom, she says the requests keep coming.

"Having a fabric mask, it's the last option, I realize this," she said. "But it is an option. It is something people can wear to go to the store."

She's just happy to be making any contribution.

"I feel with this, it's kind of giving me a sense of creativity and helping people out," she said. "I'm helping people out. I'm able to do some sort of good."

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