Masks accessible to all in Lewis County

Otis Technology is creating a new product: a one-piece cloth mask that slips over the ears similar to this one made by Bella + Canvas sold by many online vendors. Otis has pledged to donate 27,000 masks, either cloth or the paper 3-ply masks they stock, to Lewis County to ensure each resident of the county has access to at least one mask. Bella + Canvas website

LOWVILLE — When it comes to mask distributions in the time of COVID-19, Lewis County is harnessing the power of being small to reach as many people as possible, and local manufacturer Otis Technologies is about to help.

County departments have distributed about 2,000 handmade cloth masks, or almost 8 percent of the county’s estimated 26,600 residents, with more distributions planned for coming weeks. But on Friday, Otis pledged a donation of 27,000 masks, ensuring every resident will have access to at least one mask.

“We’re not currently making masks. We have bought three-ply masks to supply to our customers but we had a former employee reach out on behalf of one of their clients to ask us to provide masks for their employees,” said Director of Marketing Heather Pleskach. “One thing we always do is try to listen to our customers and be responsive.”

The company decided to look into it, examining mask designs and checking out potential fabrics that will work with the “cut and sew operations” at their facility.

It was Chief Executive Officer Larry Williams’ idea to donate masks to the county once they had developed the concept, and Ms. Pleskach made the call to Public Health Director Ashley Waite to pledge the masks on Friday.

While there is not yet a definite timeframe for the finished products, the project is “in the works.”

“We’re in the process of connecting with the right people to make this happen,” Ms. Pleskach said.

The fabric has been ordered and a single-piece mask design with ear slots instead of ties to keep it on the face has been determined.

The next steps will involve ensuring the mask specs and their machine capabilities match.

Once the first masks are made, Ms. Pleskach said they will test wash them to make sure the fabric holds up so the masks can be used multiple times.

Because this is a new product for the company, there is a back-up plan to donate the same amount of three-ply masks if there is an issue or delay with the cloth masks.

Otis previously donated 50,000 containers of hand sanitizer it bottled for sister company, Saint Lawrence Spirits.

The Lyons Falls-based company manufactures gun cleaning and maintenance products.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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