With the CDC’s policy change encouraging people to use cloth masks in public places and with more health experts endorsing the use of cloth masks as an effective intervention for lowering the infection rate of COVID-19, demand for masks is expected to burgeon in the coming weeks. Area groups and individuals are beginning to organize to produce masks.
MassMakeMasks serves as a hub for information on sewing emergency supplies and for fulfilling requests for masks needed by health professionals in response to the COVID-19 emergency. They are based in Western Massachusetts and provide links to information on patterns, materials, and distribution of home-sewn masks and also offer a listing of emergency requests (including requests for medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE) and for volunteers) from hospitals and other health care providers.
Fabric masks are considered only partially effective at blocking transmission of particles containing a virus, compared to professional medical grade masks. Medical grade masks are currently in short supply and the use of cloth masks by the general public is expected to free up supplies of medical grade masks for use by clinicians.
by Huo Jingnan, Allison Aubrey, Carmel Wroth, NPR March 31, 2020
Even without symptoms, you might have the virus and be able to spread it when out in public, say researchers who now are reconsidering the use of surgical masks. — Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images
“Wearing a mask is ‘an additional layer of protection for those who have to go out,’ former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told NPR in an interview. It’s a step you can take — on top of washing your hands and avoiding gatherings.
In a paper outlining a road map to reopen the country, Gottlieb argues that the public should be encouraged to wear masks during this current period of social distancing, for the common good.
‘Face masks will be most effective at slowing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 if they are widely used, because they may help prevent people who are asymptomatically infected from transmitting the disease unknowingly,’ Gottlieb wrote. Gottlieb points to South Korea and Hong Kong — two places that were shown to manage their outbreaks successfully and where face masks are used widely.“
With overrun hospitals facing an acute shortage of masks, people are pulling out their sewing machines to fill the void
By David Enrich, Rachel Abrams and Steven Kurutz, New York Times March 25, 2020
They are scrounging for fabric, cutting it up, stitching it together. They are repurposing drapes, dresses, bra straps, shower curtains, even coffee filters. They are building supply chains, organizing workers, managing distribution networks.
Most of all, they are sewing.
All over the country, homebound Americans are crafting thousands upon thousands of face masks to help shield doctors, nurses and many others from the coronavirus.
They are pulling together to meet an urgent need: Hospitals, overwhelmed by the fast-spreading pandemic, are burning through their supplies of protective gear, in particular masks, at an alarming rate. Doctors and nurses are getting sick and dying.
In a national emergency, some people’s initial thoughts are to fight over toilet paper. Others, like Good News Network reader Trina Branella, immediately want to leap to the aid of those in the front lines of the crisis.
Trina began constructing and sewing cloth masks for a project in Indiana to help teenage cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Then, wanted to donate more masks to workers at four local chemo centers in New Jersey, spurred on by a friend of hers whose mother has cancer “and right now she’s using a bandana.”
Cloth masks are useful because they keep your hands from touching your nose and mouth (especially out in public where you don’t know if surfaces are clean). They also can contain sneezes and coughs, protecting those around you who may have vulnerable immune systems.
As Trina was running low on fabric and unable to purchase more, she asked around to see if there was anyone willing to donate to a good cause, but had no luck. She then reached out to Good News Network on Friday, the very same day GNN received a press release from JOANN fabric Stores announcing that the U.S. company would begin donating materials to anyone looking to sew together masks, gowns, or other essential medical equipment for healthcare workers.
With the progression of the CORVID-19 emergency, hospitals and health care facilities are quickly running out of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). Though ideally masks, gowns and other PPE would be professionally made at medical grade, replacement supplies are just not available. With some hospitals recommending nurses and other staff using bandanas and other low-tech measures, making well fitting masks from cloth becomes a much more acceptable replacement to no equipment or improvised equipment. Even if a handmade cloth mask is only 50% effective, it’s better than no protection at all, which is where an increasing number of health care facilities are finding themselves.
Please see our pages of patterns and materials and dive in to help fill the gap in protective wear our health care workers and first responders need.