Carolina Ballet members sew, donate thousands of masks for those at-risk for COVID-19 in Triangle

Despite their own shutdown and layoffs due to the coronavirus, members of the Carolina Ballet are stepping up to give back.

For the past two weeks. Carolina Ballet's Costume Director and a team of about thirty volunteers have been sewing masks around the clock.

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"What we do in costumes is solve problems very quickly and we make things very fast sometimes under very hard deadlines because it's gotta go on stage," said Martinsen, costume director for the Carolina Ballet, which is out because of the coronavirus pandemic.
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The team is using donated fabric and the ballet's own supply of elastics, hard to come by due to high demand as many make homemade masks.

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The free masks are being distributed by the community group Covering The Triangle.

Covering The Triangle was formed by local physicians and Duke medical students to ensure the most at risk are covering their faces during the COVID-19 crisis.

"A lot of these local theater companies, they just don't have any work right now because of the shutdown so I've called as many contacts as I can to put as many people back to work doing what we can," explained Martinsen.

"We have a really specific skill set and we can produce these in our homes really quickly," Martinsen said. "We've done over 2,000 masks in two weeks and we're on track to keep that up and increase it," she added.

The effort was spearheaded by Dr. Eric Westman and Dr. Larry Greenblatt at Duke University Hospital.

The Carolina Ballet is providing the homemade masks to the Durham Rescue Mission and Durham Housing Authority as well as those who are homeless, prison inmates and others in situations that make social distancing difficult.

"We're all getting on board with the mission to protect people where you see the heart-wrenching driver that got coughed on and then died," said Dr. Eric Westman, associate professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine. "This is real and instead of just reacting and becoming paralyzed and depressed, we're trying to cover those people."

Both doctors said studies have shown societies that have worn masks have done better at stopping the spread.

"If everyone wears a mask, we'll be okay," said Dr. Greenblatt.

They have also formed partnerships with Prime Cleaners at Northgate Mall and a mattress factory. Each worker is making $5 per mask.
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