Americans across the country are beginning to sew face masks at home in a desperate battle to meet the drastic need for protective equipment for healthcare workers fighting on the front lines against the coronavirus pandemic.
Doctors have issued a stark warning about the dire need for more personal protective equipment such as face masks and hospital gowns and healthcare workers began to protest on Monday as the number of U.S. cases jumps over 50,000 and the death toll rises to more than 620.
Individual volunteers have jumped into the fold to make what they can as companies such as crafts chain Joann Stores have made all of their locations available for volunteers who want to aid the effort.
The help is coming after governors in New York and Illinois pleaded for help in ending the face mask drought, revealing that the cost of a protective N95 respirator masks has risen more than 800% from 85 cents to $7 as state battles state and country battles country for the limited supply.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control quietly updated their advice for healthcare workers amid the shortage, even advising that scarfs or bandannas be used if the need gets too great.
Bill Purdue, left, cuts pieces of fabric while Mike Rice sews them into face masks in Rice’s autobody and upholstery shop in Washington, Indiana. The two men are volunteering their time to make the face masks for healthcare workers amid a national shortage
Briana Danyele sews cloth face masks that say ‘We Got This!’ to send to a local nursing home and hospital which desperately need a greater supply to cope with the coronavirus pandemic
On Monday night, healthcare workers gathered outside the Kaiser Oakland hospital in Northern California to protest the lack of personal protective equipment which has forced them to limit the number of masks that they can wear.
Singing ‘We need PPE’, the workers carried signs reading ‘Protect nurses, patients, public health’ while wearing bandannas around their mouths.
The risks that healthcare workers are facing was highlighted in a segment on the Today Show on Tuesday morning when various doctors from around the country spoke of the danger they were putting themselves in and the fears that staff are going to be infected.
‘We’re seeing healthcare workers getting sick at a much higher rate than the general population,’ warned Margalix Snider.
‘In fact, we’re getting the opposite of support,’ added Robert Morin.
‘We have to fight with a shortage of equipment, we have to fight with hospital administrators who are threatening to discipline us if we protect ourselves.’
Another doctor Adam Friedlander revealed that he is spending ten times the market value on two masks after scouring Ebay and hoping that they are not already out of date.
Doctors have started the social media movement #GetMePPE to highlight the urgent need for more supplies and to thank the volunteers who are giving up their own time and resources to help.
An emergency doctor tagged Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the coronavirus task force, in his post saying, ‘I’m lucky’.
‘I got the last pair of googles in the ER for today. It’s 9AM.’
‘I found two boxes on my doorstep this morning,’ wrote one doctor sharing a picture of construction masks.
‘Thank you whoever you are. This independent doctor is forever grateful.’
Plastic surgeon Robert Morin claimed that doctors ‘are getting the opposite of support’
Another warned of the impact it will have if staff who are being forced to reuse masks fall ill, as hospitals already grapple with a national shortage of nurses.
‘When you get sick and have to come to the hospital, I assume you want a doctor and nurse to take care of you,’ he wrote.
‘If we are forced to keep reusing masks or run out of them, there may not be enough of us left. #GetMePPE for #COVID19.’
The low supply was highlighted in a tweet from an ICU nurse, which showed a line of brown bags, each named, as staff are forced to keep their masks for their entire shift.
‘This is what it looks like in the ICU. Rows of brown bags each labeled with the name of a nurse or doctor,’ she wrote.
‘We are told to keep and reuse these masks , which under normal conditions would be thrown out each time we leave the isolation room.’
One healthcare worker shared a message from her aunt who had begun to make masks for her community and then emailed her local hospital to see if they needed more.
‘They said they would love to have them,’ she wrote.
‘This is just so awful that hospitals do not have stuff for their people’.
The hashtag is also being used to share news of efforts by volunteers to make more masks to meet the demand.
In Los Angeles, Project PPE describe themselves as ‘a group of innovative, design fields coming together to help those on the frontline’ creating a GoFundMe that will go to buying supplies to make the masks and paying the wages of those making them, creating jobs for people recently laid off because of the shutdown.
Businesses also are stepping up.
On Monday Alice and Olivia’s Stacy Bendet became the latest designer to join the aid effort, as did Lady Gaga collaborator Brandon Maxwell. Bendet will be making hospital gowns for New York hospitals and health-care workers.
Los Angeles Apparel, the company of former American Apparel head Dov Charney, is also moving to make hospital gowns and masks.
Crafts chain Joann Stores is making all of its 800-plus stores available for up to 10 people at each location to sew masks and hospital gowns, offering sewing machines and supplies, spokeswoman Amanda Hayes said.
Hayes said the number of people allowed in the stores adheres to CDC guidelines, the sewing stations will be six feet apart and staff will continuously sanitize the work areas and materials.
The company also has special kits for customers who want to make masks at home.
A guide from Joann fabric and craft stores on how to make a face mask
Joann Stores is making all of its 800-plus stores available for up to 10 people at each location to sew masks and hospital gowns and has offered this guide for customers
Stacey Bendet Eisner, designer with Alice & Olivia will start making face mask in New York
Alice and Olivia made a call out on their Instagram page for more face masks
‘We´re enabling people to feel like they are contributing at a time when we don’t have control,’ Hayes said.
In Baltimore, almost 160 volunteers with 414 3D printers between them are making plastic face shields for Johns Hopkins and other area hospitals and dropping them off at a maker space called Open Works.
Executive Director Will Holman, who organized the effort, said he laid off 21 part-time employees last week because of the virus but has rehired some to assemble, sterilize and package the shields.
Automobile company Ford is also to start work on ‘positive air pressure masks’ which will repurpose the cooling system used in some of the company’s car seats to help protect medical workers from getting the virus.
‘Those products, in addition to the ventilators, there’s actually two or three different versions of breathing apparatus that we’re working on. Hundreds of thousands of the most simplest ones will be started to be produced in the next week or so,’ CEO Jim Hackett said.
Ford are working with 3M to produce the new kind of Powered Air-Purifying Respirator for healthcare workers, exploring the possibility that they could be produced in their Michigan factory.
And they will use 3D printers at its Advanced Manufacturing Center to create disposable air-filtering respirator masks, potentially creating 1,000 a month in the fist stages before ramping up production.
Yet many of the efforts are coming from individuals just looking for a way to help.
Bill Purdue waterproofs basements for a living, but he has spent the past few days in his buddy’s Washington, Indiana, auto trim and upholstery shop cutting rectangles of cotton fabric that his friend sews into face masks.
Fashion designer Briana Danyele left Italy last month to return to her mother’s Greer, South Carolina, home, where she has turned the living room into a mini sewing factory, making masks that she embroiders with the words, ‘We Got This!’
They’re among scores of people answering pleas from hospitals, doctors and nurses so desperate for personal protective equipment amid the viral pandemic that they’ve turned to the public, saying do-it-yourself face masks are better than nothing.
And for those sitting at home worrying as the virus strains hospitals and the economy teeters, sewing masks makes them feel less helpless.
Bill Purdue, left, cuts pieces of fabric while Mike Rice sews them into face masks in Rice’s autobody and upholstery shop in Washington, Indiana. They will deliver the masks this week to Deaconess Health System in Evansville, Indiana, which asked community members to sew cloth masks for health care workers who may face a shortage amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Bill Purdue, left, cuts pieces of fabric while Mike Rice sews them into face masks in Rice’s autobody and upholstery shop in Washington, Indiana. They’re among legions of everyday Americans making face masks for desperate hospitals, nursing homes and homeless shelters
Briana Danyele sews cloth face masks that say ‘We Got This!’ in her mother’s living room in Greer, South Carolina, which will be sent to health care workers amid the expanding coronavirus pandemic and the increasing shortage in face masks and hospital gowns
Briana Danyele sews cloth face masks that say ‘We Got This!’ after returning from Italy amid the coronavirus pandemic. She will deliver them to a local nursing home and hospitals
‘Whatever it takes to get the job done, that’s what I want to do,’ said Purdue, 57, whose daughter works at the women’s hospital in Evansville, Indiana.
He and his friend Mike Rice responded to a Facebook post last week from Deaconess Health System in Evansville asking the public for help.
The efforts mirror those in other countries, including Spain, where mask-making volunteers include a group of nuns and members of the Spanish Air Force. Around 500 masks a day are coming off sewing machines at the Paratroop School in Murcia, in the country´s southeast, according to the Air Force’s Twitter account.
In Belgium, what began as a one-woman operation about a week ago grew to a small army of home-sewing mask-makers within days.
For most people, the new virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority recover.
But the virus is spreading rapidly and starting to max out the health care system in several cities.
Deaconess spokeswoman Pam Hight said the hospital system realized it could face a shortage if local infections skyrocket like they have elsewhere. So officials produced and posted a how-to video that has being shared across the country.
Deaconess Health created a ‘how-to’ guide to make a face mask
‘We had people who wanted to ship them to us from all over the United States and we started saying, “Please, please use them in your communities”,’ she said. ‘It makes your heart warm; people are so good.’
She said Deaconess expects to collect thousands of masks this week at an off-hospital site and sanitize them before distributing them to nurses and doctors or sending them to local nursing homes and homeless shelters.
In a similar effort, Providence St. Joseph’s Health in the hard-hit Seattle area is putting together kits using special material and distributing them to people willing to sew them together as part of a 100-million mask challenge.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, New Hampshire’s largest hospital, is preparing kits with fabric and elastic and encouraging volunteers to sew face masks for patients, visitors and staff so medical-grade protective equipment can be conserved for front-line health care workers.
Federal officials had previously advised hospital workers to use surgical masks when treating patients who might be infected with coronavirus amid reports of dwindling supplies of fitted and more protective N95 respirator masks.
‘If nurses quit or become too fatigued or even become ill themselves, then we don’t have a front line anymore,’ said Wendy Byard of Lapeer, Michigan.
She began organizing friends to make masks after learning her daughter, a nurse at a suburban Detroit hospital, was told to wear the same mask all day.
Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly updated its guidance, saying hospitals that run low on surgical masks should consider ways to reuse them or to use them through an entire shift.
And if hospitals run out out, the CDC said, scarfs or bandanas could be used ‘as a last resort’, though some health officials warned cloth masks might not work.
Mary Dale Peterson, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists and chief operating officer at a Corpus Christ, Texas, children’s hospital, said she declined volunteers’ offers to make masks.
She said construction and manufacturing industries instead should donate or sell the high-grade masks they have to hospitals.
‘It would be only an extremely, extremely last resort that I would have my staff’ wear homemade masks, she said. ‘I really hope it doesn’t get to that point in the U.S.’
At the Missouri Quilt Museum in Hamilton, Missouri, board members asked local hospitals if masks were needed and ‘they emphatically said yes’, said director Dakota Redford.
Soon other health care providers, including ambulance crews and nursing homes, were requesting masks.
‘This has been a true grassroots effort that has exploded across the country in the quilting world,’ she said.
Danyele, the South Carolina fashion designer, said she made about 200 masks bound for a local nursing home and hospitals in Florida, Georgia, Indiana and Illinois.
‘If I’m one person creating 200 masks, imagine what we all could do,’ said Danyele, 24. ‘It’s super sad that we’re at this point, but this is encouraging.’
In some of the country’s hardest hit states, official have been calling out for help as they desperately search for more supplies for their hospitals.
California is scrambling to obtain protective gear for healthcare workers and first responders, reaching out worldwide and working with locals to ratchet up production as the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep through the nation’s most populous state.
The state is looking at ways of acquiring some one billion sets of gloves, along with hundreds of millions of gowns, surgical masks and face shields, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.
‘It’s going to take an heroic effort’ to procure the personal protection equipment, or PPE, needed to prepare for an expected surge in COVID-19 cases, Newsom said.
Among other things, he said the state would be chartering flights from China with gear and had heard from companies wanting to use 3-D printers to make surgical masks.
But he also discussed working together with other governors to strategically leverage buying power for supplies while making sure California doesn’t exploit its size at the expense of smaller states that may have difficulty obtaining equipment.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti said an Anheuser-Busch beer plant in Van Nuys will be producing bottles of hand sanitizer. Another plant in Baldwinsville, New York, will be doing the same.
In New York, now one of the world’s biggest virus hot spots, authorities rushed to set up the thousands of hospital beds they will need in just weeks to protect the city’s 8.4 million people.
More than 12,000 people have tested positive in the city and 125 have died. A state-wide lockdown took effect Monday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that the city’s hospitals are just 10 days away from shortages in basic supplies, while the state’s governor announced plans to convert a New York City convention center into a hospital.
‘This is going to get much worse before it gets better,’ New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
The risks remain for doctors, nurses and others on the front lines: Italy has seen at least 18 doctors with the coronavirus die. Spain says 12 percent of its cases – more than 3,900 health care workers – have become infected.
State and city leaders have revealed that they are having to bid against each other for crucial medical supplies like ventilators and surgical masks because Trump won’t put into action the Defense Production Act which would steady prices.
On Monday, New York Gov. Cuomo led a chorus of leaders asking Trump to start nationalizing the system to allow the federal government to buy the supplies then distribute them fairly to where they needed to be.
In order to do that, Trump must tell the manufacturers behind the supplies to make what the country needs, then buy them from them and divvy them up.
He has not yet done that, saying he does not – as the president – want to interfere with businesses and their freedoms to produce what they see fit for the market.
President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House
On Sunday night, he said: ‘We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business. Call a person over in Venezuela.
‘How did nationalization of their businesses work out? Not too well.’
According to The New York Times, he has been advised against it by the Chamber of Commerce which believes businesses need to be able to remain nimble and able to adapt – without being subject to government restrictions – during such uncertain times.
But governors and mayors are crying out for it, saying they are being priced out of getting what they need.
Cuomo revealed that N-95 masks – which cost 85 cents to buy before the pandemic – are now being sold for $7, an increase of 823 percent.
Not only are the states having to bid against each other, but they are also having to bid against FEMA, representing the federal government, and all the foreign governments still trying to cope with their own coronavirus crises.
‘We have been scrambling. We’re buying from China, we’re buying from all across the world.
‘Can I say that we’ll have enough equipment for next week? The week after? I can’t say that, and that’s out of our control. That’s where we’re going to need the federal government.
‘To have states competing with other states, to find these equipment, bidding against other states, driving the price up, masks that we paid 85 cents for we are now paying $7. Why? Because California is bidding, Texas is bidding, Illinois is bidding, it makes no sense.
‘The federal government much nationalize the equipment production and supply issue,’ Cuomo said.
New York City has now become the center of a major outbreak with over 20,000 cases
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the ‘opportunism’ at play was ‘disgusting.’
‘I’ve been hearing stories last few days from my Emergency Management team where they expected millions of masks to come in and they had to tell me that somehow we got outbid somewhere else in the world and they’re going someplace else.
‘The price gouging that’s happening here and, bluntly, the opportunism by some, is disgusting.
‘So, there’s not now a national mechanism for ensuring and there has to be. And I talked to the president, vice president about this.
‘There has to be a national intervention by the federal government to say, okay, here is the place first that needs the ventilators and the masks, here’s second, here’s third.
‘And that’s where they’re going to go. Not an open market based on who can spend the most money and make the quickest deal.’
New York is at least are at the top of the list to receive supplies because it has the highest number of cases in the US.