ELY- A cabin owner in rural Ely is doing his part to keep his new “hometown” safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Carl “Levi” Levinson is a software engineer by training who …
ELY- A cabin owner in rural Ely is doing his part to keep his new “hometown” safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
Carl “Levi” Levinson is a software engineer by training who had been visiting the Ely area for more than a decade before deciding to buy a rustic lakeshore cabin to call his own.
He now is becoming known for his grassroot effort, elymask.org, to make sure there are enough masks available in Ely and neighboring towns to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Levinson speaks Chinese and Japanese, and taught at a university in Wuhan, China,the epicenter of the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, earlier in his career.
He’s been reading and watching news from China, in Chinese, for years, and in January started noticing videos of Chinese nationals purchasing large quantities of masks from stores in the U.S, often clearing the shelves of warehouse-style retailers.
“The United States government has documented this,” he said. “Over a billion masks were exported from the U.S. to China between January and March.”
Levinson was also reading about the novel coronavirus.
“I was seeing all this stuff,” he said, “and I wanted to be prepared.”
So Levinson started purchasing items like N95 masks, surgical masks, rubber gloves, blue shop towels, disinfectants, alcohol, and wipes.
A strategy of caring
Levinson emphasized that he wasn’t hoarding; he had no intention of trying to sell these items at above-market prices. In fact, he was planning to simply give them all away.
But soon he realized that the items he was looking for were all out of stock.
“I started buying parts, things that could be assembled,” he said. “My intention has been to help the hospitals, emergency responders, and the city of Ely.”
His strategy had two parts. The first was to create low-cost, disposable masks that could be used until reusable cloth masks were available.
Levinson started tinkering with a low-cost alternative, the blue shop towel, which laboratory testing has found to be better than cloth at filtration.
First, he designed a single-use shop towel mask that only cost pennies to make and could easily be assembled into bulk kits.
Then he designed a fitted mask using multiple layers of blue shop towels, masking tape, and elastic bands. Levinson’s idea was to create kits so that individuals or businesses could make the masks they needed for their employees and to sell to customers. The kits that were assembled in plastic bins included directions, rubber gloves and alcohol spray so that the person assembling the masks could keep the entire process as sterile as possible.
The second part of his strategy was to create a team of local sewers, which he assisted by providing materials and even sewing equipment to make the mask-making process go more quickly.
The efforts at Wintergreen Design have provided thousands of high-quality washable masks, he said, most of which have been given away for free.
“This is a symbol of Ely kindness, and a truly consecrated civic effort,” he said.
Levinson is assisting that effort by donating pre-cut fabric and ties and is looking for volunteers to help with pre-cutting the fabric and sewing ties.
While he has been able to donate the supplies for the blue shop towel masks, as well as materials to create cloth masks, Levinson said people need to understand that cloth masks cannot all be free.
Low-cost fabric masks are also now available, he said, and are being stocked in many area retail stores.
And the idea of hiring local sewers to make masks that will be sold in local stores is a win-win, he said.
“I want to help get that ecosystem going,” he said.
Levinson just purchased another 40 yards of fabric and said that he is still looking for a few more local sewers to work with him, as the need for low-cost disposable masks is still ongoing.
“Churches are needing a lot of these masks,” he said.
Any citizens who want to donate fabric or time (cutting) to help supply the kits of pre-cut fabric and tie-strings can text/call 218-235-0525. ELYmasks.org is committed to supporting local sewing experts. Any sewing expert who needs fabric or kits supplied, please call/text the number above.