Early in the battle against the coronavirus outbreak, healthcare people fighting its attack were in desperate need of medical masks to cover their faces as they attended to virus victims.
Among the medical community, what is called the N95 is the “gold standard” for masks to protect the face against the virus. However, they can be in short supply and are not meant to last long. Some nurses actually have taken to putting their own handmade mask over the N95 mask to make them last longer.
While the N95 mask is the preferred face covering for the medical community, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that using alternative masks can be done when no other proper protection is available.
To fill the need for proper face covering to help the medical community, a group of volunteers has come together to sew and make masks with donated material and their donated time.
The group, known as the North MS Medical Mask Makers, now numbers more than 325, said Emily Wallace of Olive Branch, a stay-at-home mom, and the volunteer who helped put the group together.
“Predictably, it’s mostly women who do this,” Wallace said. “There are opportunities for delivery drivers and I have had men sign up to deliver the masks and pick up the materials.”
The recipients determine how the masks will be used and take no responsibility for their effectiveness. Medical staff can sanitize the masks in hot steaming water wash ahead of usage and then determine the filter material to use in the mask pouches as they see fit.
The demand for the masks is there, Wallace said, as noted by the number already made and collected.
“We have filled 783 masks after about a week and a half,” Wallace said. “We started out right when this really got serious around DeSoto County and now the numbers are growing. We have an amazing group of volunteers that are sewing their hearts out and every day I have a box on my front porch.”
That’s how it all works. The volunteers sew from their own home and then deliver what they have made to Wallace’s doorstep, where she gathers them each day without ever coming in contact with them to ensure social distancing.
Wallace takes the masks inside, sorts them out to the orders, then places the masks in a bag with a name on it. The recipient can either come by and pick the masks up off the front porch of Wallace’s home, or they can be delivered by special arrangement.
The orders for the masks come through the group’s Facebook page and Wallace said they are filled on a priority basis.
“There is a request form on our Facebook page where people that are working in a medical facility can request,” said Wallace. “We have several questions about what their needs are and how many masks they need. They will fill out the request form which comes to me.”
The requests are filled with a ranking system to gauge possible exposure to the virus with the highest-ranking orders getting filled first.
The Facebook page is the main contact for the group, which also has an email address of email@example.com where the group is contacted by those asking about masks and also wanting to volunteer their sewing services.
“I have a friend who started the Mid-South Medical Mask Makers and their need was so great that she was looking for someone to start a North Mississippi group,” Wallace said. “State Sen. Mike McLendon is a friend of mine and he had posted about the need for masks in our area and looking for help with that. DeSoto County and North Mississippi have really stepped up with dropping off masks by the bagful at my house every day.”
As the defenders of our health continue battling the coronavirus pandemic, their need for facial protection for themselves and for others is being aided by volunteers who are busy sewing mask coverings for them.
Search North MS Medical Mask Makers on Facebook to learn more.