COVID-sation with Linda
I am Bei Linda Tang, Chinese Canadian, mother of two, author, and the Owner/Creative Director of Dream Designs, a Vancouver-based organic bedding manufacturer since 1981. I used to have to explain to people where I came from originally. Most people had never heard of Wuhan, the Chinese metropolis where I grew up, until earlier this year when it became the epicentre for the Coronavirus outbreak. Since then, I have been watching the pandemic spread, first through the experiences of my relatives in Wuhan, and then in my community in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and beyond. COVID-19 feels like a massive black hole that has swallowed up our world, and everyone is shocked, confused, and struggling to cope and protect themselves and their families.
One of the immediate crisis that Canada, as well as many other countries, are facing is the critical shortage of masks, ventilators, and other personal protective equipment. It has been over a hundred years since the last worldwide pandemic. Despite experts' warnings, most governments outside of Asia didn't anticipate that so many would get critically ill so suddenly. Doctors, nurses, and other medical workers are often the first to be infected due to inadequate protection. People who work in essential services, my husband included, are also at a high risk of contracting the virus because they don't have the choice to social-isolate like everyone else.
Having worked in Hong Kong during the SARS epidemic, I knew first hand how important it is to wear a mask during a respiratory viral outbreak. When COVID-19 first appeared in Vancouver a month ago, it was already challenging to purchase medical masks. To protect my family and our store staff, my team and I started designing and made a few masks using the certified organic cotton sheeting fabrics we already have.
While countries in Asia require universal mask-wearing, health authorities outside of China discouraged the public from wearing masks, claiming that it is unnecessary, ineffective, and potentially detrimental. While their intention may be to discourage the public from buying up medical masks badly needed for frontline healthcare professionals, their advice contradicts against science and best practices, and have resulted in bigotry and stigma against mask-wearing Asians, who only wear masks insistently because painful memories from SARS, a less infectious but more fatal viral outbreak, is still fresh in mind.
Thailand was the first country to recommend the use of cloth masks by the general public amid medical masks shortage. Thai authorities announced that cloth masks can block the respiratory droplets that carry COVID-19. Realizing that our organic cotton masks could help the public, I decided to start selling the masks on our website, despite the controversy.
The organic cotton sateen fabrics we use are ideal for making cloth masks because they are tightly woven yet breathable and washes well. According to a study conducted at Cambridge University in 2013, similar cotton fabrics can capture 50% or more virus particles and are more breathable than surgical masks, which means they are more comfortable to wear for a longer time period. High filtration masks such as N95 can block more particles; however, prolonged wearing can result in dizziness, headaches, and short of breath.
We are still refining the design to enhance the overall comfort and transitioning to fabric earloops because elastic has become scarce due to the fragmented global supply chain.
I will update this blog to share my knowledge and address any common questions on our masks. If you can't find your answers here, please feel free to email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.