Performances may have been canceled, but the Atlanta arts community isn’t sitting idly at home during the pandemic.
The Atlanta Opera and the Alliance Theatre have both started using their unique resources and talents to make face masks for local healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus.
Director of The Atlanta Opera Tomer Zvulun made the tough decision March 13 to cancel the remainder of his sold out shows of Porgy and Bess to help slow the spread of coronavirus in Georgia. He felt grateful that he was able to pay everyone involved in the productions despite the financial hit his company took, but he still wanted to do more. That’s when the idea first came to him.
“On one hand, you have the need, a significant need for the medical community to be protected and have the equipment they need,” Zvulun said. “On the other hand, you have the infrastructure, the personnel and the expertise of staff members that can be focused on providing for that need instead of staying idle.”
All the costume shop employees at the Atlanta Opera dedicated their working hours to the new effort. Getting his staff onboard was the easiest part according to Zvulun.
“To channel that energy and that anxiety into something productive for the community is something that everybody just jumped on and is very enthusiastic and passionate about,” Zvulun said.
After speaking with a few local hospitals, the costume department received materials and instructions on how to make a mask that healthcare workers could use to cover N95 respirators.
Multiple layers of specialized filter material in N95 respirators keep out tiny particles that other masks can’t. That's why these particular respirator masks are crucial to protecting healthcare workers treating highly contagious coronavirus patients, but hospitals around the country have reported major shortages.
The masks that the Atlanta Opera will make are to be worn over N95 respirators to extend their usable lifespan.
As of March 26, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Georgia was 1,643 with 56 deaths and so signs of slowing down any time soon.
Joanna Schmink, Costume Director for The Atlanta Opera, created a prototype early this week, and the company is now ready to begin production on a larger scale.
“This is a situation that is unusual and unprecedented. None of us have ever dealt with this or ever dreamt of dealing with this,” Zvulun said. “But we will be strong together as a community, and this is the time to help each other and get through this.”