NOTE: I am not a qualified medical practitioner. I am merely reporting on the work being done by a group of people I know. I’m going to share some of the websites they discovered.
EDITED April 17, 2020: Some of the links in this post no longer go where they used to go: After completing a batch of masks for Kaiser hospital, I discovered that the link no longer takes me to mailing instructions. I’m currently in contact with another organization in the SF Bay Area. I chose to make masks for Kaiser because I’m currently not only housebound (sheltering in place) but physically limited by a knee problem, so just going up and down stairs or driving a car is a challenge. I wanted to mail them! Sigh…. The thing is, when I make the same masks for friends and neighbors, I make a few improvements — like cutting the face lining from 100% cotton T-shirt knit, or using twill tape for the ties, which saves a lot of time. I can even substitute elastic ear loops for the ties if I want. Much faster construction! The T-shirt lining has 2 purposes: 1} it’s comfy and perspiration absorbent next to your face and 2) (something many of my friends making masks advise) the inside of the mask cannot be mistaken for the outside if you remove it and put it on again. It’s still completely washable, just not washable in a hospital autoclave!
ADDED April 18, 2020: In the San Francisco Bay Area, the<a href=”https://sites.google.com/view/makemeppebayarea/home”> MakeMePPEbayarea</a> site has a constantly growing spreadsheet of shelters and institutions that need non-medical quality masks. (non-elastic preferred) Now that we’re legally required to wear masks when leaving our homes, the need will probably grow…. (If you visit the MakeMePPE bayarea site, be sure to click on the icon at the top right of the spreadsheet to expand it. Some listings have “urgent need.”)
The community of theatrical costumers in the San Francisco Bay Area has been making masks for distribution to shelters and to other people who need a face mask, but whose need for surgical quality masks is not as great as that of doctors, nurses, and first responders — Those on the frontlines need surgical quality, medical masks. But others — including other hospital staff — are better off with a good quality home-made mask than no mask at all. The non-profit Kaiser Permanente hospital chain has issued a clear, easy to follow, well illustrated pattern for a pleated, all-cotton face mask. Click here to read about it: it’s a pdf pattern which you can print. Follow all instructions carefully — like prewashing the 100 % cotton fabric several times in hot water before you start making anything. (And maintain sterile conditions in your work area, of course.) Masks like these can be used by people who need to leave their shelter-in-place to carry out necessary tasks. They are not as effective as disposable medical quality masks, but they are better than nothing, and they are washable and re-useable. (Remember, wearing a mask helps to protect others from people who do not yet know they are infected.)
Kaiser wrote: “While the CDC does not consider homemade masks to be effective personal protective equipment inside our clinical environments or for those caring directly for people with COVID-19, staff members in nonclinical areas may use their own personal masks.
“This is where you can help. Kaiser Permanente has developed step-by-step instructions for making masks at home. Please look at these instructions and consider making masks to donate. (A how-to video will be added shortly.) Your time and talents will be much appreciated by the Kaiser Permanente family.” To see the full letter, click here.
(For a good study of fabric effectiveness in home-made masks, click here.) (There’s a trade-off between effectiveness and the necessity for breathing normally….)
If you are feeling useless (or helpless) stuck at home, and you have a sewing machine, you might try making masks. Contact a senior citizen community, a rest-home, a homeless shelter, a food bank — even some hospitals in your community, and be sure they will accept home-made masks before you start making them. If so, what kind do they want? Figure out how you will deliver them, too. The Deaconess website, from Indiana, even has a way for groups in need to contact mask-making volunteers. Click here.
Kaiser Hospital has even set up a way for these masks to be mailed to Kaiser at Kaiser’s expense.
That’s why you need to contact the hospital or group that you will send them to before making masks, to be sure you are supplying what they really need.
The mask pattern from Kaiser is easy to make from cotton fabrics and supplies you probably already have, which is why I featured it. (Is there a stitcher or quilter who doesn’t have a stash?)
I haven’t used my sewing machine in several years, so I don’t know yet if it will even work! But I wanted to spread the word about what a remarkable group of costumers is doing right now.
And, since we can always use a bit of humor, I’m sharing this image from a vintage ad: