East Gippsland Embraces the Face Mask in Fight Against COVID-19

BRHS volunteers Carole-Anne Hock, Jeanette Gatti and Deborah Harrison have been making washable cloth masks for the community. Photo: Mel Fenby/BRHS


While the requirement to wear a face mask has sparked a culture war and uprising of opposition in countries like the United States, it has been wonderful to see the people of East Gippsland happy and willing to make this small but important contribution to the fight against COVID-19.

The State of Victoria has announced that from 11:59pm on Wednesday people in Melbourne or Mitchell Shire must wear a face covering in public.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said wearing face masks reduced transmission rates by two-thirds or more.

Those states and countries around the world that made face coverings mandatory have suppressed the virus far more effectively than those that did not.

Since BRHS started requiring visitors to the health service to wear a mask earlier this month, the overwhelming majority of people coming to the hospital have been happy to comply.

On ABC Gippsland radio on Monday morning, people from all over the region phoned and texted in to express their support for wearing masks and to encourage others to do so.

“It’s not about me – it’s about how I can protect others,” read one listener’s text.

It’s also been excellent to see a number of crafty locals making face masks, for themselves and appreciative members of their community.

Lakes Entrance seamstress Diana Whitfield is one of a number of entrepreneurial locals responding to the new market for face masks – since offering on facebook to make masks a couple of weeks ago she’s been flooded with more than 200 orders.

Her workshop is like a vivid and vibrant art gallery of fabrics of all colours and styles.


Diana Whitfield is one of a number of locals responding to the surge in demand for cloth face masks. Photo: Jake Lynch/BRHS


Diana said that the Aboriginal art style prints had been very popular.

“But most of the guys, they just want black,” she said.

Working on her own, Diana said that each mask takes about 10 minutes to make. And with the number of orders she’s received, she’ll be working around the clock to keep up with the demand.

In an effort to reduce the use and wastage of single use masks, our volunteers have also been making cloth masks.

If you have to visit the hospital (remember, only essential visitors are permitted), masks will be available at the main entrance later this week, for a gold coin donation.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has produced these simple step-by-step instructions for how to make a cloth mask.

It’s important to make sure that all materials are intact and have not worn too thin or have holes in them.

And, of course, please remember that face masks only work if you keep them on your face!