/Mississippians among volunteers making home-sewn masks for medical workers

Mississippians among volunteers making home-sewn masks for medical workers

In just a few days, she had made nearly 100. Ater captured them stacking on top of each other, with their colorful straps flowing down like ribbon awards. The image was posted to “Masks For Miss Lou,” a Facebook page she started that now has over a hundred crafters from the entire community of Vidalia, Vidalia, La. Local health workers were in dire need of supplies during the global COVID-19 epidemic. The masks were made for them. Ater, who suffers from an autoimmune disease, stated that making masks is something she enjoys doing while staying at home. Her personal project grew into a group of nearly 1,400 people over the course of one weekend. “Masks For the Miss Lou” is now a hub of activity. People post sewing tips, and individuals make requests for masks via the comments. Local antique shops donated bolts of fabric, while craft stores heavily discounted ribbons. Others gave thread. Bethani Douglas, one coordinator, stated that 30 volunteers are currently sewing masks for the medical professionals in the area and throughout Mississippi. Douglas stated, “We are just making as many masks as possible for as long as it takes, until there isn’t a need.” Mississippians are donating handmade and purchased masks to help fill the gap in the shortage of personal protective equipment (or PPE) for COVID-19-affected health professionals. Timothy Moore, president/CEO, Mississippi Hospital Association, stated that COVID-19 had put a strain on national supply inventories. He also said that the association is working with regional health care coalitions and government officials to obtain protective equipment. One expert says that there is a need for supplies on a national scale. It’s amazing that individuals, as well as businesses, are willing to help with this crisis. Maryn McKenna is a senior fellow at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Human Health. She said that it was wonderful that people wanted to help their neighbors. “But it’s unrealistic for them to hope that they can support what federal pandemic plan failed to do.” McKenna said that hospitals need tens to thousands of masks every day because masks are discarded as potentially infectious after each patient encounter. McKenna stated that making such a large number of masks is an expensive task. “Private businesses as well as individual citizens cannot afford to purchase materials in these volumes. This kind of planning and procurement requires government muscle. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the state Department of Health began to distribute personal protective equipment across the country over the weekend. MEMA executive director Greg Michel said that MEMA is working to replenish its stockpile and will deliver at least three supplies to counties (emergency management agencies), long-term care facilities, and health care facilities. Michel spoke about the state’s supply inventory for COVID-19. Michel stated that MEMA has provided thousands of PPE to include gowns and gloves, from both state and national stockpiles as well as commercially procured. Governor Tate Reeves stated that MEMA had shipped more than 210,000 surgical and 236,000 N95 masks to the state. Tate Reeves spoke at a Tuesday press conference. Reeves assured healthcare providers that the state is working to acquire masks but encouraged hospitals to also secure supplies. The University of Mississippi Medical Center still needs donations of disposable masks, N95 masks and protective gowns. The state has seen other community efforts multiply. A local community center in Greenwood is collecting handmade masks to donate to local hospitals. A Tupelo denim factory is changing part of its production to make masks. Christee Holbrook, a spokeswoman for the state Association of Builders and Contractors, is asking for N95 masks to be donated to the state medical association. These masks are used to keep dust and other particles from entering the lungs of workers in construction. The disposable N95 masks have been deemed the gold standard. However, the CDC recommends that COVID-19 patients be treated with homemade masks such as scarves and bandanas. These masks don’t meet the N95 standards for COVID-19 transmission. Participants exchanged ideas in the Facebook group. Participants shared videos from other hospitals as well as a how to video created by a UMMC surgeon. Some suggested removing coffee filters and air conditioner unit filters to line the faces. One member suggested using pipe cleaners. Douglas stated that the administrators of the group recommend that volunteers use at least two-ply tightly weaved cotton. “Thanks for an overwhelming showing of community support we have been gifted a large supply of homemade surgical masks,” UMMC posted Monday on Facebook. “Because of limitations on the use of these masks in a patient care setting, we are no longer requesting home-sewn masks, but will accept those that are currently completed/in-progress.” The masks are intended to be washable and reusable, Ater, the Miss Lou sewing group’s founder, said. She said that some workers told her they use them to cover medical-grade masks to make it easier to replace the underneath. Ater said that mask requests are not only coming from emergency room doctors and other health care workers, but also from local fire departments, grocery store workers, and others who want reminders to not touch their faces. Douglas stated that she has seen an increase in requests for masks from correctional facilities, as there are several jails and immigration detention centers in the region. Ater stated, “There are so many people – their jobs are now the MVP job.” “They’re so much more special than we thought they were.” [Click Here to access Mississippi Today’s COVID-19 Resource portal. ]