Help protect local healthcare workers by sewing masks
by Margaret Hurlbert
November 16, 2020

MUSCATINE, Iowa—Nationwide, concerns about personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages, including stocks of surgical masks, feature prominently in headlines. At Governor Kim Reynolds’ daily press conference, journalists frequently ask about the state’s supply of PPE. As local agencies begin requesting donations of surgical and N-95 masks to build of their reserves, residents may wonder how they can help, as most people do not have these supplies. Beginning last week, Trinity Muscatine Public Health began accepting handmade masks and encourages the public to help make and donate them.

Called Olsen masks after a notable nurse, healthcare workers for UnityPoint in Cedar Rapids developed a simple pattern for an easy to make mask that healthcare professionals could easily adjust to fit their faces. Made from the sort of 100% cotton fabrics many home sewers use, healthcare facilities can launder the masks with strong detergents and safely reuse them.

Currently, hospitals would hold these masks in reserve, as they have sufficient quantities of surgical masks for their daily needs. However, if the number of patients admitted to hospitals with COVID-19 grows, requiring the use of more masks, healthcare workers could use their regular supply of masks for these patients and use the fabric masks for people with less infectious conditions.

Anyone interested in sewing masks may find the pattern online and print it out, using fabric they have at home to create them. Additionally, Neal’s Sewing and Vacuum Center at 309 East Second Street in Muscatine has free, pre-cut kits available for carryout. If you would like to pick up kits, Jeff Hunt of Neal’s encourages you to call ahead at 563-263-4543 and request a specific number of kits. The staff at Neal’s will also help arrange safe, low-contact ways to pick up the masks. “We’ve been here for 70 years,” said Hunt. “It’s what you do for a community that’s supported you for 70 years.

Sewers who have finished masks may drop them off at Neal’s for their staff to take to UnityPoint Trinity Muscatine Hospital. Anyone wanting to drop their masks off directly at the hospital may place them in a lidded bin in front of the hospital’s main entrance.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, people throughout the community work hard to find ways to help each other even when we must stay apart. Sewing masks as emergency stock for local healthcare workers represents one thing Muscatine County residents can do to help keep people safe.

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