With shortages of official Personal Protection Equipment, lots of community driven groups have stepped up to help. But many people are worried about making sure that their efforts are actually helping those in need. What do we need to know?
Hanes is On It!
Many Domestic Manufacturers are already stepping up to be able to fill the need for official N95 masks and other PPE. Hanes announced over the weekend that they were switching production to PPE, and Monday The Sourcing Journal reported that the American textile manufacturing sector has been stepping up as well. “American Giant, Los Angeles Apparel, AST Sportswear, Sanmar, America Knits, Beverly Knits and Riegel Linen are also members of the coalition working to respond to the growing national health emergency. The companies expect to begin production on Monday and make the first deliveries by mid-week.” That's not to mention the number of local designers and stitchers that are troubleshooting the local production of masks and PPE right now.
However it may take as many as 4-5 weeks for them to ramp up to full production, making up to a projected 10 million face masks per week. On the “Home Front”
That still leaves many in the community, medical professionals included, worried and in need. While a handful of public calls for homemade masks have hit the news the last few days, many volunteers are finding that Hospital officials are leery of taking in masks of unknown quality and origin. It could pose a liability concern, and the online volunteer groups are full of discussions on the efficacy of fabric masks and the pros and cons of different styles and materials. That's not to mention that different facilities have different needs, depending on the day...
If you are looking to make masks to donate, first look to see what groups already have tested patterns and connections to facilities in need. Here in Chicago, Masks for Chicago Area Healthcare Workers have been coordinating a list of places in need.
Even just a search around Facebook turns up quite a few options bursting with ideas for how to make the best masks, some national and some local. Relief Crafters of America and Sew Flat the Curve both state they have tested their mask instructions and consulted with medical professionals. My current favorite options are these from Sew Flat the Curve.
Quick tips and links:
MadeinAmerica.com has a round up on different efforts to manufacture equipment domestically, including an article about how surgical masks are made.
For materials, a very tightly woven, 100% cotton seems to be the best. Something like a shirting material. Be careful to check the quality of the material, how tightly it’s woven, that it’s pre-shrunk, etc
Many sites are saying to use twist ties or craft wire for shaping the fabric mask to the nose. But they are not likely to hold up under cleaning. 1/2" Rigilene boning, like shown in this video from Gold Star Tools, may work better and hold up longer and can be found in several places online. Swatch-on is also offering this Nose Wire, but as it's coming from South Korea will likely take longer to ship.
Make sure to keep yourself and your work area clean and sanitized. Any pets, cigarette smoke, etc should be kept far, FAR away. (The fabric masks will likely be cleaned and sanitized before use, but quality control begins with you!)
Medical facilities will likely be swamped, both with caring for people and also fielding volunteers asking to help. Working with a larger established group can help reduce not only the communication chatter distraction, but also reduce the number of people interacting with both the facilities and the general public. (Thus helping to keep the quarantine and your community safe.)
REMEMBER: These masks are not intended to help directly protect against COVID-19. All of these groups are very clear that the goal is to help as an emergency gap measure, to keep the N95 masks that are the ideal in the hands (and on the faces) of the medical professionals working directly with patients. When worn by the general public, these fabric masks are being seen also as a way of 1) reminding yourself not to touch your face (which is believed to spread the disease) as well as help reduce spreading disease if you are already sick.