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Need a mask on the go? Two Newport Beach retirees have you covered

Newport Beach residents Nita Livingston, 69, left, and Nancy Buck, 75,
Newport Beach residents Nita Livingston, 69, left, and Nancy Buck, 75, have been sewing masks and putting them on a line in their front yard for anyone to take since the coronavirus pandemic began.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The small clothesline sits in front of the house on Azure Avenue in Newport Beach.

It contains a handful of masks, differing in colors and patterns.

No, there is no catch. Yes, they are all free for passersby to take, whether they’re on their bicycles headed to the Back Bay or just walking the dog in the Bayview Heights neighborhood.

Nancy Buck, 75, and Nita Livingston, 69, share the house. Retirement has brought the two women, who each have artistic backgrounds, an opportunity to sew masks together during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Since they put out the clothesline in March, Buck said more than 1,100 masks have been given away.

“Nancy has always said, ‘Work is love made evident,’” Livingston said. “I think that’s very true. If you’re just idle, you don’t have any satisfaction.”

Buck, a longtime Newport Beach post office employee who also worked for 10 years in the Irvine Unified School District, said she already had a surplus of fabric before the pandemic. So she started making the masks with Livingston, a retired teacher in the Capistrano Unified School District.

The Newport Beach Film Festival was scheduled for April, then August before it finally went online in October. The festival began on Thursday and ends on Sunday.

The masks are made of double-layered cotton. On Wednesday morning, Bridgette Cobb passed by on her bicycle, stopping to meet the women and take a mask.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Cobb, who lives on the Balboa Peninsula. “It’s a wonderful act of generosity. The world needs more people like that.”

The mask-making process is simple enough.

“I work at one end of the table and Nita works at the other,” Buck said. “We’ve kind of got an assembly line. She’s better at some parts of it, putting together the fabric and the elastic. Then she passes it over to me, and I do the outside, then I pass it back to her and she does the folding. She passes it back to me, and I sew up the ends. We can turn out about 25 [masks] in about an hour and a half.”

There are also decorative rocks with positive messages available in front of their house. Those are also free to take.

Nancy Buck and Nita Livingston give away masks and rocks with positive sayings.
Nancy Buck and Nita Livingston give away masks and rocks with positive sayings.
(Photo by Matt Szabo)

Those who pick up the masks have showed their appreciation in different ways.

“We’ve had people that have left fresh produce in a bag, just clothes-pinned to the line,” Livingston said. “Some people have left $5, some people have left a little Starbucks card. Some people just leave a note that says, ‘Thank you so much.’”

In fact, Buck said that enough money has been left to help them purchase a second sewing machine that aids in the masks’ production.

Buck and Livingston said they are planning to keep producing masks for the foreseeable future.

“It’s so rewarding to make a connection with people,” Buck said. “I think it’s kind of a win-win. We’re both artists, and we love being creative. It’s a way for us to express our creativity and help other people.”

Orange County COVID-19 stats

The Orange County Health Care Agency reported three deaths due to COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the county’s overall death toll to 1,292 people due to the respiratory disease. There were 144 new cases reported, and the cumulative case count now sits at 55,042 people.

There are 183 current hospitalizations due to the virus, and 64 of those patients are in intensive care units.

Orange County remains in the red tier for reopening indicating “widespread” risk, which has thresholds of between four and seven new daily cases per 100,000 residents and a testing positivity rate between 5% and 8%.

The current numbers, based on seven-day averages with a seven-day lag, have 3.2% testing positive, which would be good enough to move to the orange tier indicating “moderate” risk if the other metric was met. However, there are still 5.2 new daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

Additionally, a new metric needs to be met to drop to less restrictive tiers. Going forward, the positivity rate among a county’s lowest-scoring census tracts according to the California Healthy Places Index needs to be nearly in line with the county’s overall positive test rate.

Below are the coronavirus case counts and deaths for select cities in Orange County:

  • Santa Ana: 10,580 cases; 284 deaths
  • Anaheim: 9,392 cases; 279 deaths
  • Huntington Beach: 2,438 cases; 76 deaths
  • Costa Mesa: 1,850 cases; 34 deaths
  • Irvine: 1,735 cases; 13 deaths
  • Newport Beach: 1,155 cases; 25 deaths
  • Fountain Valley: 521 cases; 17 deaths
  • Laguna Beach: 229 cases; fewer than five deaths

Here are the case counts by age group, followed by deaths:

  • 0 to 17: 3,953 cases; one death
  • 18 to 24: 8,303 cases; four deaths
  • 25 to 34: 11,832 cases; 19 deaths
  • 35 to 44: 8,753 cases; 36 deaths
  • 45 to 54: 8,887 cases; 109 deaths
  • 55 to 64: 6,593 cases; 186 deaths
  • 65 to 74: 3,313 cases; 260 deaths
  • 75 to 84: 1,871 cases; 274 deaths
  • 85 and older: 1,492 cases; 403 deaths

Updated figures are posted daily at occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/coronavirus-in-oc. For information on getting tested, visit occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/covid-19-testing.

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