The CDC advises wearing a mask, but Amazon delivery dates hover somewhere between "eight weeks from now" and "never." Sewists of the world are breaking out their bobbins and Singer machines, but for those of us whose only needle and thread comes in a janky motel sewing kit, finding a mask is a conundrum. The solution: Dig through your home or your social network. The universe just may provide.
You might already own high-grade protection and not know it. Ever get freaked out about the possibility (*cough* inevitability) of a major Pacific Northwest earthquake, and buy a pre-stocked bug-out bag? Many of those emergency kits come with dust masks or even N95s. Or check your garage or storage unit; did you use a mask when you painted the guest bathroom?
This raises the question of whether we civilians should be wearing our own N95 masks when health care and other essential workers need them. If you stumble upon some fully wrapped N95s—especially a lot of them—you should absolutely donate them; try UW Medicine's campaign. They even accept items with open packaging, provided they're unused; something you've already worn is probably safe to keep.
If you're sure you didn't accidentally stockpile supplies in the past, it's DIY time. Everyone owns a bandana or scarf, or just an extra piece of fabric. Fashion a no-sew mask with two rubber bands or hair ties using the fold method outlined here by the surgeon general.
Of course, even elastics can be hard to come by, and that folded version has a tendency to shoot off the face like a slingshot. West Seattle DJ John Fisher attempted to cut a face mask from a raggedy old T-shirt, to middling success. Sporty types might own a neck gaiter, a fabric tube worn on the ski hill or hiking trail. Buff, who manufactures the most popular brand, notes that its wares are not proper protection against viruses, and most are polyester blends that retain more bacteria than cotton. But like most of these options, a gaiter is better than nothing; remember to fold and double-up, since, like a bandit-style bandana, a single layer of fabric does very little.
HEPA vacuum bag filters are gaining popularity as mask materials, but rumors abound that they contain harmful fiberglass. Some manufacturers have denied it, but Shop-Vac issued a statement: "They are in no way designed or intended to protect humans from bacteria, viruses or other pathogens...direct contact or coverage of the human mouth or nose with the filter materials are strictly forbidden for any purpose." Other cons: They may still require sewing skills to turn them into face wear, and you likely need those bags to, you know, vacuum your living space.
But your home may contain a filter that could boost any cloth mask; coffee filters or even paper towels, tucked between layers of T-shirt or bandana, can increase effectiveness (as long as they don't put a serious hit on your home's java production or counter cleanups). Wired magazine has a how-to, though the CDC's mask guidelines, which once recommended the extra layers, no longer mention coffee filters.
If your home produced no workable solution, fear not: The internet may save us yet. Across the country, people with sewing skills are making homemade masks by the thousands, many of them sharing with friends and family. Try a plea on Facebook, and don't be afraid to deploy pet and/or kid photos to garner extra sympathy. Positive your friends aren't crafty? The nationwide Buy Nothing Project gathers neighbors for commerce-free donations and requests; an inquiry on a Capitol Hill group page netted a free mask within 15 minutes.
Amazon might be stripped clean of face coverings for purchase, but local sellers are cranking them out. Craft collective Seattle Makers sells masks in exchange for a $10 donation; they're also handing out materials packets for those who want to sew—and producing face shields, door openers and other PPE items. The Foundry Print Shop in SoDo offers $15 masks in two sizes, and West Seattle's DiverLaura Designs makes colorful homemade face coverings for $20, with half of proceeds supporting Sustainable West Seattle (and plain ones in return for a direct donation to the program).
Remember that any DIY solution is no substitute for effective virus protection like "staying home" and "binging The West Wing instead of interacting with other human beings." But when you do venture out, the grocery workers and other dog walkers will appreciate your effort to keep your germs to yourself, no matter how goofy you look.