Doctors and nurses around the U.S. are sounding the alarm about the dwindling supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as surgical face masks and respirator masks. Many hospitals are placing tighter restrictions on the use of surgical face masks to deal with either current or predicted shortages.
Joann Fabric recently announced a series of programs to help boost the supplies of face masks, and they are encouraging their customers to help.
For those crafters who may already have material and sewing supplies at home, you can take advantage of an online tutorial of how to make fabric face masks produced by Joann Fabric. The less-than-10-minute video gives step-by-step directions on how to make a pleated face mask for individual use.
The face mask project is part of Joann Fabric’s Make to Give response program. The official website for the project not only features the tutorial video but other resources, such as detailed instructions on what type of fabric to use and how to sew particular pieces of the masks together.
As the movement to sew your own PPE and donate it to your local hospitals and healthcare providers grows, some hospitals are offering advice to those who are sewing at home. UNC Health in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, tweeted out what they’re looking for in donations, as well as a link with hospital-approved patterns for sewing face masks at home:
Looking for a way to help? UNC Health is now accepting donations of personal protective equipment (PPE), including soap & hand sanitizer. Drop-off locations & times & additional ways to help, including patterns for sewing masks at home, can be found at:https://t.co/qzqzXiJWwF pic.twitter.com/3b8LuaVQiC
— UNC Health (@UNC_Health_Care) March 22, 2020
Do Handmade Masks Work Against the Coronavirus?
No. “The only mask that the CDC considers safe from you getting the coronavirus, the only way to actually prevent you from inhaling it, is the N95 mask,” Captain Michael Doyle, a U.S. Army New York National Guard physician assistant, told USA Today. “The DIY masks, albeit creative, are only to serve as a reminder for us to not touch our face.”
However, that doesn’t mean they’re useless to hospitals, especially those that are low on PPE.
CDC guidance on regular surgical masks or loose-fitting face masks reads, “The role of facemasks is for patient source control, to prevent contamination of the surrounding area when a person coughs or sneezes. Patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 should wear a facemask until they are isolated in a hospital or at home.”
In other words, it’s helpful for patients to wear them to help contain their own germs.
One doctor tried to clear up some of the confusion about how hospitals might use handmade masks when the N95 is the only recommended mask for doctors and nurses working closely with patients: “goal is to sew cloth masks for PATIENTS with symptoms so healthcare professionals can use actual surgical masks/N95 to protect themselves,” wrote Dr. Vineet Arora of the University of Chicago Medicine on Twitter:
important part of implementation of #SewingFaceMasks here—- goal is to sew cloth masks for PATIENTS with symptoms so healthcare professionals can use actual surgical masks/N95 to protect themselves. Thanks for clarification. Curious others thoughts #GetMePPE https://t.co/aQP5FsQKuP
— Vinny Arora MD MAPP (@FutureDocs) March 22, 2020
How To Make a Facemask
For those who are interested in making these masks but don’t have the materials, you can go to the Make to Give section of Joann Fabric’s website to get a materials list, as well as order what you will need for the project. Keep in mind that your local store might already be out of supplies, though.
The program launched on March 23 and originally offered customers a chance to come to the store for in-person instruction and to pick up materials needed to make the masks. Once finished, the masks could be brought back to the crafters’ local store, where Joann Fabric will collect and distribute the masks to local hospitals.
However, as more cities, counties and states started mandating stay-at-home protocols, many Joann Fabric stores have restricted operating hours and access to stores. Simplemost tried reaching out to local stores in the Cincinnati and Denver areas, and the automated messages at both locations said their stores are closed in compliance with local mandates. Some closed stores still have curbside pickup.
Sarah Roth, a Joann Fabric’s corporate public relations team member, sent Simplemost the following information:
“Curbside pick-up/drop-off is available at all JOANN locations that are currently open (openings and store hours vary by location),” the email read. “JOANN teams in the stores will be on hand to ensure we are following government-recommended social distancing guidance. And they will routinely sanitize our work areas and keep the equipment clean. In addition, we are giving people the option of making the items in their own homes, following patterns and instruction we are providing at joann.com/maketogive. And JOANN will be accepting completed masks.”
So, you will want to contact your local Joann Fabric store to confirm if the store is open at this time if you want to participate.