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McCarter Costume Shop helps protect medical community


For Sarah Romagnoli, First Hand in the McCarter Theatre Center Costume Shop, the fight against COVID-19 is personal.

“My sister, Dr. Anne V. Lee, had recently taken a contract working for the U.S. Military in Louisville, Ky. She was among the first to say that clinics were going to run out of masks, so I video-conferenced with her about what she thought the ideal mask would be,” Romagnoli said.

“I started developing the pattern for building masks around March 17. My sister wanted extra-large washable masks to fit over her medical mask and to wear to and from work. We also thought that a pocket would be useful, to be able to insert used paper filters.

“She and others on staff love them, and (I’m) grateful to McCarter for giving me the time to make masks for the medical community. Starting next week, based on her request, I’ll be building the masks from Halyard H600 Sterilization Wrap.”

Working from home is taking on new meaning for the 10 members of McCarter Theatre Center’s Costume Shop. After the cancellation of the remainder of the season, McCarter artists find themselves with an abundance of time to match their abundance of talent, which is now being used to create emergency Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for health-care workers and first responders.

In Mercer County, McCarter staff connected with the Mercer Mask Project, a collection of local sewers making masks for health-care professionals, first responders and essential employees in the community.

Earlier in March, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated that, “In settings where facemasks are not available, health-care professionals might use homemade masks (e.g., bandanna, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 19, 2020).

“The Mercer Mask Project came together in order to fight against potential shortfalls in personal protection equipment (PPE),” said project co-founder Cindy Rosen of Robbinsville, N.J. “The masks made by Mercer Mask Project are made for people who fall through the cracks and may not have access to PPE, like first responders, home health care, and the homeless, and may potentially be used to extend the life of N95 masks. I thank everyone involved at McCarter Theatre Center for their help in this fight.”

To date, Mercer Mask Project has delivered more than 500 masks to a variety of organizations in need, including pharmacies, assisted living facilities, homeless shelters, rescue squads, first responders, and more.