Deerfield’s Cotton Facemask Project – COVID-19


It is with heartfelt gratitude for the awesome effort of the innumerable staff members and resident volunteers who have embraced the Cotton Facemask Project – from ordering supplies and preparing kits to individually hand-crafting masks to tackling the task of distribution. Hundreds of masks have been produced, each with two layers of tightly-woven cotton fabric sandwiching a layer of (fiberglass-free) HEPA filter material. The internal filter layer significantly increases the efficiency of the mask’s filtration of external particles (improving the mask’s efficacy in protecting the wearer from others’ respiratory droplets).

We are working hard to identify Independent Living residents who do not currently have a cloth facemask and distribution of masks to those residents is ongoing. Deerfield Independent Living residents are strongly encouraged to wear a cotton facemask at all times when outside of their homes, including when in common spaces or outdoors on campus. Of course, we do recognize and respect that a small percentage of residents may be unable to tolerate mask use due to an underlying medical condition. 

We’re not stopping there! Once residents have received masks, the team endeavors to ensure that employees receive a second cloth mask. This additional mask will help to ease the laundering burden, since cloth masks should be cleaned and dried after each use and many employees work a number of days in succession. 

Here’s a link to the Deerfield facemask project video on YouTube!
Thank you to all of the volunteers and to Bernard Coleman for adding the music and getting the video online!!!

Deerfield’s 2020 Cotton Facemask Project

The Case for Cotton Masks

Symbolizing COVID-era social responsibility and collectivity, homemade cotton facemasks went from being essentially unheard of to becoming a downright modern necessity within the span of just a few days. I was initially dubious of the idea of universal masking of the general public with cotton facemasks. Readily available evidence for the efficacy of these homemade cotton masks was scarce, and sometimes even a bit disconcerting. However, while we still lack an abundance of evidence derived from rigorous research, the bulk of evidence seems to suggest that well-made masks using high-quality, tightly-woven cotton offer some degree of effectiveness in mitigating viral spread through droplets, particularly for the purpose of source control. I’m now convinced that Americans should be wearing cotton facemasks in public spaces to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  And I think you should be too.

Here’s why:

  • Your cotton facemask mitigates asymptomatic spread. 

The CDC director, Robert Redfield, recently confirmed that approximately 25% of people with coronavirus are entirely asymptomatic (meaning that they feel perfectly fine) yet are likely to still be contagious. 

  • Your cotton facemask mask can protect yourself and others. 

While science has yet to draw clear conclusions on cotton facemask efficacy, it is safe to assume that something is better than nothing. In particular, even an imperfect barrier resting no more than a centimeter from the wearer’s nose and mouth must, to some extent, contain respiratory droplets produced by the wearer. Likewise, though it is true that these simple barriers are less effective at protecting the wearer from incoming germs, a well-constructed mask made with heavy or tightly-woven cotton or flannel, when worn properly, offers decent filtration potential and can reduce the wearer’s risk of catching COVID-19. Coupled with social distancing, frequent, effortful handwashing, and disinfection of high-touch surfaces, it’s the best that can be done.   

  • Your cotton facemask helps to ease fear and anxiety among those around you. 

It is a symbol to others that you are taking COVID-19 prevention and control seriously. Your mask also contributes to making everyone else’s mask look normal and helps to allay social stigma. 

Get the Most Out of Your Mask

  • Always wash your hands immediately before applying your facemask. 
  • When applying or removing your facemask, only touch the ear loops or ties. 
  • The mask should be worn with the top edge resting on the bridge of your nose, just underneath where glasses would sit and with the bottom edge pulled down underneath your chin.
  • Avoid touching the outside of your mask (not only during application and removal but also) while you’re wearing it. Your mask is a filter, so any externally-sourced viral particles that the mask effectively filters should theoretically be trapped on the outside of the mask. If you accidentally touch your mask, consider your hands contaminated and clean them as soon as possible in order to avoid cross-contaminating other surfaces in your environment.
  • The mask needs to stay put in order to remain effective. Do not pull the mask down under your chin to rest on your neck, do not pull the mask down under the nose so that only the mouth is covered, or pull off one ear loop and allow the mask to hang from the other ear. All of these “cheats” will leave you un-protected and your mask contaminated. At this time, the CDC recommends that citizens wear a cloth mask when they must go out into the public. The CDC also recommends (and this is supported by North Carolina and Buncombe County orders) that older adults stay home as much as possible and only leave home for essential needs. With this in mind, my advice to our residents is that they apply their cloth mask just before leaving home and that they remove it immediately upon returning to their residence. 
  • After your mask has been worn, it should be considered contaminated. Wash your hands immediately upon removing your mask. Clean your mask between uses, either in the regular laundry or by washing with warm water and soap and hanging to dry. 
  • Perhaps most importantly, remember that a cotton facemask alone will not protect you from contracting COVID-19. Your cotton facemask is an important addition to a routine that should involve staying home whenever possible and certainly when sick, practicing conscientious social distancing, hand hygiene, and cleaning.

Taryn Tindall, RN, on behalf of the Deerfield Leadership Team