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Two metro businesses moving past mask making as COVID-19 rates drop

As COVID-19 cases drop, Busy Bee Tailor and the person behind MaskHelpers are shifting back to what they did before the pandemic.

DES MOINES, Iowa — During the early stages of the pandemic, some people created businesses or shifted their existing companies to focus on masks and mask making. 

As life starts to return to normal the owner of Busy Bee Tailor, Hong Nguyen, said she plans on returning her business model back to the way it was pre-pandemic. 

Nguyen started making masks last year when her shop had to close for a few weeks. 

After it opened back up, "nobody [was] com[ing] in," Nguyen said. 

So she focused heavily on masks, and was able to make enough to donate thousands to those in need. They sold equally as much which helped her business survive. 

"It helped me pay bills last year and pay my employees," Nguyen said.

Recently, she said fewer people have come in to buy or place orders for the protective gear.

With no mask mandate, fewer COVID-19 cases and her selling less masks, she said last week was her final week making them.

"I think, I'm done with masks," Nguyen said.

The business owner still has over 1,000 in her inventory and plans on giving them away at the end of July. 

"I'm going to send [them] overseas and donate [to] maybe Indians or Vietnamese, [because] some countries right now really need masks," Nguyen said.

But Nguyen is not the only business owner ending a personal protective equipment business created during the early days of the pandemic. 

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Torey Maerz, the CEO of Rocket Referrals, is pausing the website the company created last year, MaskHelpers

MaskHelpers was created to put people who needed masks in touch with those who created them. 

However, Maerz noted the need for people to get masks isn't as great. And with life returning to normal, that's why the decision was made to pause the site.

"MaskHelpers was done to solve a problem," Maerz said. "And I feel like we really helped contribute to that and I'm really proud that a company in Des Moines could you know, step in and use their resources and help people all across the country."

Maerz said the website will stay up for now just in case they ever need to use it again.

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