DANIA BEACH (CBSMiami/AP) – Protective facial masks are becoming a fashion statement across the nation during the coronavirus pandemic but because it’s Florida, one man is using python skin.
Brian Wood, owner of All American Gator Products in Dania Beach, is crafting decorative mask coverings from the skin of the Burmese python, the infamous invasive species wreaking havoc on native wildlife in the Florida Everglades.
“People are going to have to cover their faces, and unfortunately the situation may last longer than we imagined,” said Wood, owner of All American Gator Products in Dania Beach. “Some people want to make a fashion statement even during this pandemic, so I want to give them options.”
The python skin itself doesn’t provide protection but his mask allows for a filter or a lining to be inserted and removed. He said he is in talks with suppliers of filters and is considering using cloth because surgical-grade materials are scarce and in high demand by medical professionals.
He said that some masks may come with a filtration system like the N95 mask, which blocks very small airborne particles and currently is advised for use only by medical professionals treating patients with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The python masks will be made with holes framed by black, silver or gold metal rings, which will add a hint of luxury to the items, he said. They will probably be secured with a band with a VELCRO closure, and will come in different colors and finishes. A metal nose clamp will help ensure a good fit, Wood said.
His Facebook page prices are $90 for Python or Lizard and $120 for Alligator.
In line with recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more and more people are wearing masks in public settings. On social media, many people are making fashion statements with colorful hand-made face coverings with original prints and even embroidery. YouTube, Facebook and other social media are teeming with DIY videos on how to make cloth masks, allowing for some self-expression during the pandemic.
Though state lands are now closed for public use as part of the social distancing campaign, python removal agents for the state are still at work, and Wood hopes to do brisk business with them if the masks take off.
Wood, who also hunts alligators and used to supply luxury goods maker Hermes, said one 10-foot snake could potentially yield as many as 10 masks.
“People are telling me they want to buy 5, 12 of these masks, so I’ll definitely be buying snakes from local hunters.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)