Street Portraits: New Haveners Get Creative With Masks To Curb Coronavirus | Connecticut Public Radio
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Street Portraits: New Haveners Get Creative With Masks To Curb Coronavirus

Apr 14, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now advises all people to wear a cloth face covering in public spaces to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, though in Connecticut, masks are not mandatory. With shortages of medical-grade masks on the front lines of the pandemic, such masks aren’t generally available to the public. Still, that hasn’t stopped people from getting creative with DIY versions. A walk around New Haven bears that out, as you’ll see many residents with a new look, doing their part to fight the coronavirus.    

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Vanessa Chung, an undergrad at Yale, lives off campus and has been studying remotely. She wore a scarf around her face because she donated the medical masks she had. "I'm from Brooklyn, the hospitals need them," she said.
Credit Ryan Caron King/Connecticut Public

Evan Serio manages a soup kitchen in downtown New Haven. He says COVID-19 has made it hard for people experiencing homelessness to get through daily life. "It's really difficult to find a place where you can use the bathroom, charge your phone, take a shower, do some laundry. The narrow resources that folks had are zilch right now," he said. His mask was donated by a volunteer group in the community.
Credit Ryan Caron King/Connecticut Public
Sonia Rochester, waiting for her shuttle outside Yale New Haven Hospital, said her elderly uncle died of COVID-19 earlier this month. She works in the operating room as a supply coordinator -- and she got her mask on the job. "I try to hold on to it, exchange it when I come back. We have to be responsible, that's all," she said.
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Lee Ozuna's job as an apparel screen printer has been on and off since the virus hit Connecticut, so she was able to put some time and creativity into making her mask. "I really like the vampire look -- the edginess of it," she said.
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Walking through the Dixwell neighborhood, Arthur Taylor said he's trusting in God to keep him safe -- but he still wore gloves and a mask. "For 67 years, I've been blessed -- I'm gonna watch out for me, too, now," Taylor said. "Self-preservation is the number one law of nature. I ain't no fool."
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Emma Lo and Rahul Shah both work in the medical field, and they say getting access to PPE has been an issue for their colleagues. "We wanted to preserve the surgical masks for people who are working with patients ... and actually represent that message too by not wasting them when we're going for a walk," Lo said.
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Tom Gugel works as a clinical research nurse. He's been wearing his mask in public spaces -- even when he's riding his electric scooter. "The habit of wearing a mask makes you psychologically feel a little bit better," he said.
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Rebecca Weiner, who was trying to unwind with a book and a walk in Edgewood Park, said she recently lost her uncle to COVID-19 -- and her brother in Manhattan was just hospitalized. Weiner said that after her walk, she was going home to sew more masks like the one she was wearing. As of Saturday, she'd made 105, and she plans to give them to friends, family and medical professionals.
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Ricky Pietruszka wore a mask as he skated in downtown New Haven. He says the shifts at his job as a cook have gotten busier since the COVID-19 outbreak began. "It's only me and the head chef, and that's it," he said.
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William Robinson usually comes to this spot on the Quinnipiac River to fish. It's also a place where he can be alone. "I like it here because not a lot of people come out here," he said. "Right now, it's a safe place to come because of that." His partner's immune system is compromised, and he's trying to be as cautious as he can.
Credit Ryan Caron King/Connecticut Public
Harlon Dalton, a priest at St. Paul and St. James Episcopal Church, and his wife, Jill Strawn, a retired nurse, got their masks from Amazon. Their dog Zeke wore a mask, too (so he wouldn't eat stuff he's not supposed to).
Credit Ryan Caron King/Connecticut Public

Personal trainer Chris Murrell was working out with a group of clients in Edgewood Park. "I've been shut down by the government, so I had to improvise," he said. "We come outside and put our minds together." Murrell said he's been wearing his red bandana to make his mom, who's a nurse, feel better.
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Douglas Antonio, who got laid off from his job at a bar, said he doesn't know how he'll come up with rent for this month -- but he says he now has some time to think about what his next move in life will be. "Life has changed for everyone. We're literally living in a history book right now," he said.
Credit Ryan Caron King/Connecticut Public