With federal officials now mulling whether to recommend that all Americans wear face coverings in public to ward off COVID-19, the rush to produce protective masks is threatening to surpass binge-watching Nexflix as a pandemic pastime. In far northern Wisconsin the newly organized Chequamegon Bay Mask Makers have set a goal for 3,000 make-at-home masks, while in the southeast the Wisconsin Face Mask Warriors are furiously following suit.
Even a Wisconsin factory that usually produces high-end golf attire has taken up the cause.
On March 19 Billy Draddy, the creative director at Summit Golf Brands, the umbrella company for brands including Fairway & Greene, Zero Restriction and B. Draddy, got an email from a customer suggesting that instead of producing golf shirts the company might turn to surgical masks instead.
Draddy spent the weekend coming up with a preliminary prototype and sent it to the company’s assembly facility in Barneveld, where other employees continued to refine the design, using heat-sealing machines used to manufacture Zero Restriction and fabric used in assembling golf shirts.
Within a week the factory was churning out masks that could be used by first-responders like police officers, firefighters and other emergency workers who need personal protective equipment to do their jobs safely. The company first notified the Iowa County Office of Emergency Management that it would be supplying masks and later agreed to produce 1,000 surgical style masks for the Wisconsin Department of Emergency Management.
Draddy told PGA.com he then began working on a prototype of the N95 mask that would have even greater filtering potential.
“We are going to try to ratchet it up to the most protective mask we can make and see where we can be helpful,” he said. “If all of a sudden a little shadow of light appears in your head, which is what happened to me, we can all help. You just try to do the next right thing, and this just felt the right thing.”