RED DEER -- A business in Red Deer has started making cloth face masks to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Classic Cleaners and Tailors found themselves in a similar position as many other businesses. It had to temporarily lay off 11 of its 12 employees because of diminishing revenue.

“Once the social distancing measures were implemented, within a week our revenue was down substantially,” said owner Jamin Soehn.

In the hopes of finding some work for his laid-off staff, and as a way to help out the community, he started looking into producing cloth masks.

“We wanted to find a way to help out a community that has helped out us over the years,” said Soehn.

“We have a tailoring department that has a lot of talented seamstresses, so we thought of making some cloth face masks once they started getting more media attention, and there were some recommendations that they could actually help.”

Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, recently said wearing masks could provide additional benefits to people if they're in a situation where they cannot keep physical distance.

“There may be added benefit for those who are well, and in places where they cannot keep two metres distance from others, to wear a face covering,” said Hinshaw.

“Wearing a non-medical mask such as a homemade cloth mask has not been proven to protect the person who is wearing it, however it may be helpful in protecting others around you.”

Soehn was able to bring back one seamstress to work full-time. If the orders pick up, he intends to bring back more.

“It’s my intention if the demand keeps climbing,” said Soehn.

For each mask purchased, the business is donating one mask to organizations and facilities that need them.

“We have a half and half ratio in mind,” said Soehn. “So, if we can sell a 100 masks, that’s going to enable us to donate a 100.”

The Mustard Seed, who deliver lunches to school children and provide food to the homeless, and the Red Deer Food Bank have already requested orders of masks.

Soehn said he intends to donate to long-term care facilities too.

"Obviously, long-term care facilities are at such a high risk," said Soehn.

"They're in need of the surgical N95 masks, but some of them have reached out to us and said that they will take whatever we can give."

Masks should be well-fitted and people should take proper precautions before and after wearing a mask. Individuals should always wash their hands before putting on a mask, as well as before and after taking it off.

Soiled or used masks should be cleaned with extreme caution.​