Kennesaw resident Bibi Husain donates hundreds of masks to community

Mariah Case (far right) and her respiratory therapist co-workers at Kennestone Hospital wore Husain’s donated masks. (photo courtesy of Mariah Case)

For twenty years, Summers Street in Kennesaw has been home to Ajay’s Upholstery, a family business. But just as the owners began working on the challenging process of relocating due to the sale of their building, the COVID-19 pandemic gave them a new purpose.

Bibi Husain said they have already donated around 500 masks with 1,000 more in progress. She initially sent 150 masks to a hospital in New York where her cousins work due to the low supply, but when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently began to urge the public to wear cloth masks to reduce transmission (medical masks, such as N95s, should still be reserved for healthcare workers) Husain and her family got to work providing additional protection for the community.

“A lot of my friends at Burn Boot Camp Kennesaw are health care workers so I’ve been handing them out to them. Dr. Chris from Eaton Chiropractic helped us with the connection to Ross Memorial to donate 120 masks, and my friend Juliet helped connect us to Kimberly Personal Care Home to donate 60 masks,” Husain said.

Husain, who said she is at high risk due to lupus and other autoimmune issues, then began offering free masks to the community by posting on Facebook and NextDoor. Her Facebook page is filled with tagged selfies by Kennesaw residents who have been recipients of the family’s generosity, including Mariah Case, a respiratory therapist at Kennestone Hospital who received one along with some co-workers.

Bibi Husain sewing in her Kennesaw workshop. (photo courtesy of Bibi Husain)

Helping her make about 50 masks a day is Husain’s husband Inderdeo Ramnauth, two sons Ajay and Arjuna, and her parents Jamal and Zubeda Husain, who happened to be visiting from Canada to assist with the move.

Husain said she loves staying active. When she was 16 and still living in her home country of Guyana, she lost her leg in a car accident. Though she is limited in some physical activities, she said she gets a sense of satisfaction from attending a local boot camp and focusing on her business. Health is very important to her since lupus almost took her life in 2013. She is now in remission.

She and her husband married when she was 19 and have spent almost their entire married lives in Georgia, raising two sons who are now 20 and 24. She describes what they have as a “true love story.”

At Monday’s Kennesaw City Council meeting, which was streamed to the public on Facebook via the City of Kennesaw Government page, Councilman James “Doc” Eaton said, “I’d also like to give a shout out to Bibi Husain…they’ve been tirelessly making hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of facemasks and passing them out to the health profession.”

Eaton, along with the other council members, joined via conference call, while Mayor Derek Easterling, newly-promoted City Clerk Lea Addington and City Manager Jeff Drobney sat with ample space between them in adherence to social distancing recommendations.

Ajay’s Upholstery is relocating to 3610 Kennesaw North Industrial Pkwy., off Moon Station Rd.

Masks being sewn in the workshop. (photo courtesy of Bibi Husain)

“Once one door closes, another one opens, so we are not too stressed! If there is a will, there is a way, and for that reason we will keep working hard to do our best for the community,” Husain said.

It’s important to note that while health experts say cloth masks are encouraged to help decrease the spread of the virus, they are not a replacement for other interventions.

When asked about the effectiveness of homemade masks, Wellstar Health Systems sent the following statement:

Wellstar supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation for the public to wear a cloth face covering or face mask in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. According to the updated guidelines by the CDC, the use of a simple cloth face covering can help mitigate the spread of the virus between both symptomatic and asymptomatic people by minimizing face-touching and droplet transmission.

Our biggest challenge currently is educating the public about the importance of social distancing or self-isolation to contain the spread of the coronavirus, so as not to overburden our healthcare facilities and workers, as well as to appropriately conserve the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Social distancing and self-care are extremely important tools to help stop community spread of COVID-19. Social distancing slows the spread of the disease to manageable levels and helps to mitigate the daily number of disease cases.

According to the CDC, cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure, and – as mentioned above – can help mitigate the spread of the virus. The primary intervention recommendations are social distancing, not touching your face, and frequent, thorough hand-washing.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.