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Volunteers come together to make face masks for healthcare personnel fighting coronavirus pandemic

“To know that you can help in some small way, it’s pretty amazing."

CLEVELAND — The shortage of face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a call for donations. Local organizations and neighbors are coming together to make homemade masks for healthcare personnel.

Videos have surfaced online, giving viewers step-by-step directions on how to make face masks for healthcare personnel that may be in need and are working with limited resources.

The Centers for Disease Control have recognized the potential shortage and released the following statement:

“In settings where facemasks are not available, HCP might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE since their capability to protect HCP is unknown.”

“This is better than nothing,” said Jan Brostek, owner of craft shop Pins and Needles in Northeast Ohio which has recently launched a global sew-a-thon to create thousands of face masks.

“We need them to be durable,” said Brostek. “We need them to last.”

The group is using cotton material to make two different styles. They noted that healthcare professionals they spoke to asked for a pocket to be added to the masks so workers can put additional material inside for more protection.

Wendy Scott-Koeth, a coordinator with Stagecrafters Theatre which is under the auspices of the Orange School District and a program of Orange Community Education and Recreation, said a group of volunteers, who have made theater costumes in the past, have now put their talents to use to make face masks.

“To know that you can help in some small way, it’s pretty amazing,” said Koeth.

The Willoughby Hill Fire Department confirmed to WKYC that they spoke to the group about their needs. Koeth said they are working to make bigger masks to fit over the fire crew’s original protective gear.

“We started to get feedback from the firefighters to make the masks bigger than their original protective wear to help preserve their products.”

JOANN stores are joining in the efforts, uploading a how-to video with guidelines in what they call a "grassroots effort" to make and collect masks to distribute to local hospitals. Summa Health said they are supporting the company’s call that encourages members of the community to make masks for the healthcare workers on the front lines.

At this time, University Hospitals and MetroHealth told WKYC that they have an adequate supply of face masks. UH noted that they are looking at alternative options.

The Stark County Health Department noted that the county’s Emergency Management Agency may accept the handmade masks as a last resort.

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