Volunteers sew masks for health workers facing shortages

Masks

CHICAGO (AP) — Bill Purdue waterproofs basements for a living, but he has spent the past few days in his buddy’s Washington, Indiana, auto trim and upholstery shop cutting rectangles of cotton fabric that his friend sews into face masks.

Fashion designer Briana Danyele left Italy last month to return to her mother’s Greer, South Carolina, home, where she has turned the living room into a mini sewing factory, making masks that she embroiders with the words, “We Got This!”

They’re among scores of people answering pleas from hospitals, doctors and nurses so desperate for personal protective equipment amid the viral pandemic that they’ve turned to the public, saying do-it-yourself face masks are better than nothing.

And for those sitting at home worrying as the virus strains hospitals and the economy teeters, sewing masks makes them feel less helpless.

“Whatever it takes to get the job done, that’s what I want to do,” said Purdue, 57, whose daughter works at the women’s hospital in Evansville, Indiana. He and his friend Mike Rice responded to a Facebook post last week from Deaconess Health System in Evansville asking the public for help.

The efforts mirror those in other countries, including Spain, where mask-making volunteers include a group of nuns and members of the Spanish Air Force. Around 500 masks a day are coming off sewing machines at the Paratroop School in Murcia, in the country’s southeast, according to the Air Force’s Twitter account.

In Belgium, what began as a one-woman operation about a week ago grew to a small army of home-sewing mask-makers within days.

For most people, the new virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority recover.

But the virus is spreading rapidly and starting to max out the health care system in several cities.

Deaconess spokeswoman Pam Hight said the hospital system realized it could face a shortage if local infections skyrocket like they have elsewhere. So officials produced and posted a how-to video that has being shared across the country.

“We had people who wanted to ship them to us from all over the United States and we started saying, ‘Please, please use them in your communities,’” she said. “It makes your heart warm; people are so good.”

She said Deaconess expects to collect thousands of masks this week at an off-hospital site and sanitize them before distributing them to nurses and doctors or sending them to local nursing homes and homeless shelters.

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