Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pamela Evans displays some of the more than 1,680 masks she has made and donated.
By Jon Johnson
CENTRAL – With COVID-19 numbers continuing to rise, the use of face masks in public has been recommended in Graham and Greenlee counties and mandated by other local governments throughout Arizona.
The health departments of Graham and Greenlee counties strongly recommends wearing a face covering when in public. As of Sunday, Graham County was listed at having 63 total cases and Greenlee County has reported 14, which are the lowest totals out of any of Arizona’s 15 counties. However, the state has had a record number of cases multiple times since reopening, and other counties have seen their numbers explode. As of Sunday, the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services is reporting 52,390 total cases in Arizona since the start of the pandemic, with 1,339 COVID-19 related deaths.
To help fill the need for face coverings retired registered nurse Pamela Evans, of Central, has made and donated more than 1,600 masks to the public and she doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
Evans recently had knee surgery which has limited her mobility, however, when the call came from the Graham County Department of Health Services asking The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Pima Stake to make 1,000 masks for the public, Evans stepped up and saw it as a way she could contribute.
“I love sewing,” Evans said. “And because I don’t have anything else to do right now, I said I’ll make some masks.”
And make she has, as of Friday, Evans has made 1,680 masks, which she gives away for free. In addition to the Graham County Department of Health and Human Services, Evans has also given away masks to local medical clinics and offices, post offices, banks, Walmart, and more.
“Right now, Graham County is increasing in the virus,” Evans said. “The local public doesn’t think it’s important to wear them. So, you go into these stores and nobody has them on except me. And they need to understand that the coronavirus is very real . . . It’s very important that people take care of not only other people but of themselves and family.”
It takes Evans about 15 minutes to make each mask, and she mostly utilizes materials donated to the Pima Stake for mask making, including fabric and elastic. Donations are very welcome, especially elastic, but also fabric, and thread. The materials are utilized by Evans and others, who then donate the masks to the public. For more information on donating materials, call Marcy Beaus at 322-0922.
She makes two kinds of masks, the pleated kind which can hold a filter in the middle and utilizes a pipe cleaner to hold well to one’s nose, as well as the Olsen mask, which is already cut out. All of Evans’ masks have tied elastics which enables them to be sized to each individual. Masks should be washed frequently and always worn while covering the nose as well.
“Anybody can be involved in making masks,” Evans said. “I think it’s an important project. I enjoy doing it because it gives me something to do.”
Evans said she believes practicing proper physical distancing and wearing a mask are important elements to help keep a person safe from the virus, along with practical care.
“You need to check yourself and see if you’re running a temperature,” Evans said. “If you have a hard time breathing or anything like that, go get checked. Go to the Graham County Health Department. Go to your doctor and be sure you don’t have the virus. Because it is real and it does kill people . . . Protect yourself and your family because it’s coming here and it’s coming here big time.”
If you would like one of Evans’ masks for you or your family, contact the Graham County Department of Health Services at (928) 428-0110.