Last week “maker” Holly Higdon-Wood of Hood River delivered 425 bandana-masks that she and her band of sewers made to help protect farmworkers.

Millie Guisto, safety coordinator for The Hood River Cherry Company said she was thrilled to receive them.

“These will help keep you safe,” Guisto told her workers as she handed them out.

Allowed by OSHA’s guidelines, the colorful bandanas have an adjustable nose piece and an added layer of fabric to filter particles. Higdon-Wood, owner and designer of Colony Collective, a custom hat and clothing company, came up with the bandana mask idea in late May after brain-storming with Claire Rawson from the social services organization, Next Door Inc.

Rawson, who worked with Higdon-Wood on a separate mask-making project, bemoaned the fact that many farmworkers didn’t like or use the traditional masks because of discomfort behind their ears and difficulty breathing.

Farmworkers are used to wearing a bandana while working in the protect themselves from dust, chemicals, the sun, and now coronavirus, said a press release, and, these specially designed coverings have a reinforced nose bridge and extra cotton for protection from disease.

Maria Diamas, a longtime farmworker, said that she likes the new bandana masks even better because the nose bridge keeps the fabric on her face.

This month's thousands of farm workers will arrive in the Hood River valley to pick cherries. Many will come from California and others from Washington’s Yakama Valley, an area that has hundreds of cases of COVID-19.

Giving out mask protection is just one of the many steps Guisto is taking to keep her employees safe, said a press release. She is also stockpiling hand sanitizer, outdoor bathrooms, face shields and other items to protect her workers, project supporter Ruth Berkowitz said.

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