In an effort to help combat the nation’s ongoing medical mask shortage caused by the coronavirus epidemic, a locally organized Facebook group is sewing homemade masks and donating them to healthcare workers nationwide.
St. Joseph Health Clinical Social Worker, seamstress and founder of Humboldt Coronavirus Mask Makers April Alexander told the Outpost that the group has grown by more than 1,800 people since it was founded one week ago.
“We take requests from hospitals, clinics and others on the page and fulfill the request,” Alexander said. “Within a day we had orders for 2,000 masks.”
Alexander said the group, in partnership with SCRAP Humboldt, has already donated nearly 500 of the home-sewn medical masks, many of which have gone to local medical professionals at Mad River Hospital.
“We are humbled by the outpouring of support in our community,” Mad River Community Hospital stated on its Facebook page. “As we prepare to safely respond to COVID-19 we are accepting donations of homemade masks to help our front line nurses, doctors and all of our important hospital staff prolong use of their [personal protective equipment].
Although the masks are homemade, there are strict guidelines that the group follows, especially for Mad River Hospital, which requires its masks to have a sewn-in pocket for filters.
“We specifically use woven cotton, not t-shirt material and we prefer fabricated because it can better withstand sanitization,” Alexander said. “We prefer a filter pocket to be added also. We’re not encouraging people to put them in, but hospitals are deciding how they want us to make them.”
However, St. Joseph Health, which operates St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial Hospitals, are not accepting homemade mask donations. But St. Joseph Health Interim Executive Director of Communications Christian Hill said that decision could change if necessary.
“At this point, just because of regulatory concerns over the masks being made outside of the scope of the hospital, we’re currently not accepting homemade masks,” Hill told the Outpost. “What we are accepting are unopened boxes of medical grade masks from organizations like dentists, orthodontists and vets’ offices.”
While Hill said St. Joseph Health isn’t currently in need after receiving a new order of masks on Tuesday, he added that the healthcare organization is always planning for the future and that it supports the volunteer work being done by local community members.
“We’re prepared for today, but we’re planning for tomorrow,” he said. “Certainly the community wants to play a part and we encourage them to continue down that road and work with other partners in the area who are accepting homemade masks.”
While not all medical providers are accepting homemade masks in the area, the idea seems to be taking off among local crafters. Another newly formed local group called Masks Up Humboldt is also sewing and donating homemade masks to anyone in the area who needs them.
“Mask Up Humboldt is a group dedicated to coordinating the effort to support the need for respiratory protection within Humboldt County in order to slow the rate of spread of COVID-19 within our community,” the group stated on Facebook.
Alexander said that interested volunteers or medical professionals in need of masks can reach out to the group through the Humboldt Coronavirus Mask Makers page.
“Making these masks frees up more specific industry standard medical supplies for the doctors and nurses that really need them,” Alexander said. “It frees up the supply chain for the people working on the front lines.”
Read more from Mad River Community Hospital:
Arcata, CA (March 26, 2020): Mad River Community Hospital (MRCH) has been looking for alternate solutions to protect their staff in response to the supply chain disruption from COVID-19. Face shield eye protection is one part of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required to keep our frontline healthcare workers safe from infection. Unable to restock the head bands used to hold the shield in place, the hospital reached out to staff contacts in the local 3D Printing Maker Community.
“This is one of the situations 3D printing people dream about when they buy a printer” said one 3D printer who asked to remain anonymous. MRCH is expecting to be able to replenish and replace face shield stock in a matter of days for staff with these donations.
In addition to the 3D printing community, Humboldt County’s sewers and seamstress community has banned together creating a Humboldt Coronavirus Mask Makers group on Facebook to help connect makers with facilities in need of homemade PPE masks. Mad River Community Hospital has requested a donation to outfit their staff in an effort to extend the life of the N95 masks which can be worn until soiled per CDC guidelines. “We are grateful for our community support. Our community is caring for the caregivers so we can care for them” said Pamela Floyd, Chief Compliance & Public Information Officer, MRCH. Over 100 of the locally sewed masks were delivered to the hospital yesterday.
Facebook group creator April Alexander, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, St. Joseph’s Cancer Program, shared her drive behind the movement “I’m very aware of immune compromised patients and the importance of keeping caregivers protected from the COVID-19 virus…We expect a PPE shortage locally, so we wanted to get ahead of that and start making masks now. It’s been amazing to see the community come together so quickly for such an important cause.”
Donations of PPE can be made at the Main Hospital Entrance Monday – Friday 12 pm – 2 pm. Facilities in need of masks can reach out to the Facebook Group, Humboldt Coronavirus Mask Makers, for donations.
For more information on how to respond to COVID-19 go to www.madriverhospital.com