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Willing Hearts Circle is handmaking masks

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues intensify, the Willing Hearts Circle of King’s Daughters Medical Center is doing its part to help out by producing handmade masks during a shortage of those hard-to-find medical supplies.

It was KDMC Wellness Works Corporate Health Consultant Melissa Leggett who introduced the idea to the hospital’s leadership team. Leggett had seen a video posted by a hospital in Georgia about making the masks from surgical sheets during a weekly conference call. When KDMC approved the idea, the Willing Hearts Circle jumped at the opportunity to help.

“Our hospital is very important to our community and we are here to stand alongside them during this time,” Willing Hearts Circle chairwoman Sherra Smith said. “The Circle prays for our hospital and all of our providers daily.”

Normally, masks need to be approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, but the Centers for Disease Control has issued guidelines for dealing with critical shortages of N95 respirators and surgical masks, and homemade masks can be used as a last resort.

“In settings where N95 respirators are so limited that routinely practiced standards of care for wearing N95 respirators and equivalent or higher level of protection respirators are no longer possible, and surgical masks are not available, as a last resort, it may be necessary for (Health Care Professionals) to use masks that have never been evaluated or approved by NIOSH or homemade masks,” the CDC said in its guidelines. “It may be considered to use these masks for care of patients with COVID-19, tuberculosis, measles and varicella. However, caution should be exercised when considering this option.”

As healthcare workers around the world deal with the new virus, masks are in short supply. In a time when one hospital in New York — New York-Presbyterian — is using more than 40,000 masks a day, local, community-driven solutions have begun to manifest.

“Sewing these masks and helping our providers and their staff are small tasks to allow them to continue to serve our community,” Smith said.

Smith said that anyone with a sewing machine can help out, though she said people will need operating linens made of a breathable, water repellent fabric.

Patterns are available. Any person or organization interested in sewing masks can coordinate with Leggett by calling her at 601-672-7826.