Florida Shop Owner Is Selling Python Skin Face Masks so People Can Make Coronavirus 'Fashion Statement'

A Florida shop owner is selling face masks crafted from Burmese python skin to customers looking to make a "fashion statement" while limiting the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Brian Wood, owner of All American Gator Products in Dania Beach, Florida, has designed masks made of different leather—including python skin, lizard skin and alligator skin, which he describes as "the diamond of leathers" to the Miami Herald.

"People are going to have to cover their faces, and unfortunately the situation may last longer than we imagined," Wood told the paper. "Some people want to make a fashion statement even during this pandemic, so I want to give them options."

The leather masks do not provide protection in and of themselves, but Wood said there is a space for a filter or lining that can.

He explained he wants to take advantage of the state's supply of skin from pythons, alligators and crocodiles, saying a 10-foot snake could provide enough skin for 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," said Wood.

In Florida, hunters are permitted to kill Burmese pythons on private land with the landowner's permission—in fact, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) encourages it, provided it is done humanely and without the use of traps and firearms.

The reason for this is that Burmese pythons are an invasive species native to South Asia. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the snake was introduced to the U.S. via the exotic pet trade. It is now spread across more than a thousand square miles of South Florida, competing with native species for food. Some of the largest drops in Florida fauna have taken place in areas where the Burmese python has the longest presence.

Stock image of Burmese python
Stock image of a Burmese python. A Florida shop owner is making face masks made of python skin. crbellette/iStock

This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations regarding face masks. The advice encourages members of the public to wear cloth masks when social distancing is more difficult—for example, in grocery stores—and includes guidance on how to make your own using a t-shirt or bandana.

Some states, including Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, have taken things a step further by introducing mandatory policies.

As the demand for face masks rockets, residents and business owners have been coming up with solutions, some more effective than others, from T-shirts to underwear. Businesses from luxury fashion companies like Ralph Lauren and Prada to toy companies like Mattel and Fisher-Price have diverted production lines to produce face masks.

The below infographic from Statista shows the number of COVID-19 cases confirmed worldwide as of April 17.

coronavirus, map, covid-19, countries, world
A graphic provided by Statista shows the global spread of the new coronavirus as of early April 17. More than 2.2. million people have been afflicted, over 565,000 of whom have recovered and over 148,000 of whom have died. Statista

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.

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