The New Fashion Initiative

Makers Across the Nation Addressing COVID-19 Surgical Mask Shortage

Note: Fabric masks do not offer the same protections as conventional masks. Check with your local hospital to see if they are accepting donations before you take action. Prioritize staying inside during this time. 

As the global pandemic known as coronavirus continues to spread, medical professionals are facing shortages of the masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that they need to safely screen and treat patients. Panic-buying and the refusal of the federal government to initiate emergency production of masks are two drivers of this shortage. Doctors, nurses, and EMTs are on the front lines of COVID-19 every day. Without protective items like gloves and face masks, their health and the health of their families are at risk. The consequences of PPE shortage are all too real; dozens of healthcare workers across the country have already fallen ill with the disease, and two are in critical condition. #GetMePPE is trending on social media as medical professionals reach out to the public and to businesses for support. 

In the face of this daunting reality, some hospitals and clinics are asking the public to sew facemasks for healthcare workers. Homemade masks are not intended to replace the N95 respirators that medical workers require when they are exposed to airborne particles from infected patients. Rather, they allow healthcare professionals to prioritize the use of N95 and conventional surgical face masks. Homemade masks may be used in areas of the hospital where the risk of infection is low, or for patients who may require a basic mask.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) notes that, “In settings where facemasks are not available, [healthcare professionals] might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability to protect… is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.” These homemade masks offer a last resort for clinics and hospitals that are facing shortages of conventional face masks. 

For individuals that are interested in aiding these efforts, visit WeNeedMasks.org for instructions on how to make masks. They also have contact information for healthcare providers requesting donations of masks. JOANN is providing free materials to those who are willing to sew face masks. Can’t sew? Nineteenth Amendment launched the “Buy a Mask, Give a Mask” campaign to sponsor the production of masks for care facilities. Additionally, if you have a stockpile of masks, donate them to the medical professionals who need them. Doctors and nurses are particularly in need of N95 respirators, as well as surgical masks.

Some businesses are also stepping up. Merck & Co. and Harbor Freight donated significant stocks of masks and gloves to emergency rooms and hospitals in need of them. Zinntex spent last week reconfiguring their supply chain in China to produce N95 respirators. Many small businesses and nonprofits are doing all that they can to help. Shannon Lohr, from Factory45, launched The Mask Project to connect factories with mask-making capabilities with the medical professionals that need them. If you are a medical professional in need of face masks or you operate a factory with the capacity to make masks, you can learn more at The Mask Project

For more information about COVID-19, check out these links:

What you need to know about coronavirus disease 2019? 

Updates on coronavirus

What to buy for a quarantine 

Tips for protecting your mental health during a quarantine 

Tips for working/ studying from home

40 things to do when bored

Thank you so much to Jasmin Malik Chua, Amy Dufault, Patrick Duffy, Abrima Erwiah, Sim Gulati, Kestrel Jenkins, Joshua Katcher, Lillian Liu, Shannon Lohr, Katya Moorman, Sonia Park, Andrea Plell, Ashleyn Przedwiecki, Sara Radin, Benita Robledo, Rachel Wang, Alden Wicker, Marci Zaroff, NYCEDC, CFDA, and others for sharing knowledge, networks, advice, and resources!