“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” ― Fred Rogers
Thank you to Carol Fite Lynn, Director of Communications, for sharing this article and starting the movement in her own home. See below for one of Carol's creations.
Calling All People Who Sew And Make: You Can Help Make Masks For 2020 Healthcare Worker Shortage
Update 7pm, March 22: If you are a healthcare provider looking for help with official N95 Masks, or a manufacturer, please see my post about the new National COVID-19 Medical Equipment Clearinghouse, aka Project N95. If you are someone looking for the DIY Mask efforts, keep reading here.
If you want to rally the world to your cause, think like a little bird and tweet. Hospitals and doctors are reaching out via social media to ask for mission-critical help in solving the shortage of N95-type masks during the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Rally is probably not the right word. A significant movement, perhaps even a revolution of epic noble intentions, is underway in hackerspaces, makerspaces, and sewing groups to come together and solve a problem to save lives at risk with the Coronavirus.
You can help. Today, right now. Are you sitting in your apartment or house in some sort of state-wide lockdown? You can do something to help others. People of all ages and walks of life are diving in to make a difference. Check out some of these amazing initiatives, both small and large:
Joost De Cock (Old Dutch for “The Cook”) started the FreeSewing Open Source Project from his home in the Netherlands to provide free sewing patterns. Recently, his wife who is a surgeon started seeing potential shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE). Joost knew what to do, so he posted it to FreeSewing in late February. People thought he was being silly as a handmade mask would never be used by professionals.
But he was onto something when he posted: Calling all makers: Here's a 1-page PDF facemask pattern; Now go make some and help beat this thing. I took inspiration from Joost’s call for help in the writing of my headline. Shoutout also to Katelyn Bowden who shared Joost’s post. It is her workshop photo above and she has been cranking out the DIY masks. She calls herself a “reluctant hacker” and also runs a nonprofit to help image abuse victims. She pointed me to a bunch of different resources.
Here is one of the masks Carol Fite Lynn, ever the Harry Potter fan, sewed over the weekend.
If you think that a handmade mask cannot be used, think again. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a place for them — in times of crisis, like the one we are in right now. On the CDC page: Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of Facemasks, they explain that as a last resort, a homemade mask is acceptable. Frankly, we are at that stage right now. Here’s how they explain it in the Crisis Strategy section, When No Facemasks Are Available, Options Include:
“Healthcare personnel (HCP) use of homemade masks:
In settings where facemasks are not available, HCP 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 HCP 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.”
It is possible that the government and manufacturers will ramp up in a wartime-like effort, but the reinforcement is more likely to come from the people. Millions of masks are needed. People are starting to make them and it is going to be a big deal.
Clearly, there is a shortage of the manufactured N95 respirator. You know this. Healthcare workers know this. If you have been hoarding them, let me cut to the chase — there are people and organizations who need your extras and you can do the right thing and donate them. Get in touch with Holly Figueroa O'Reilly on Twitter — she is organizing the distribution of masks. Karen Booth is another person listing out different projects as she starts making masks herself. Follow the hashtags #millionmaskchallenge and #millionmaskmayday and scroll through and you will find programs and projects around the USA and world.
People like Joost, Katelyn, Holly, and Karen are bringing enormous good into the world. When I asked Joost why he was doing this FreeSewing project, he pointed me to his Pledge page where he explains that all the funds that come into the project are donated to Doctors Without Borders. All of it. Why? He pointed me to that page again: “I don’t know if you’re familiar with the phrase ‘noblesse oblige’ but it essentially means that privilege entails responsibility.” Then said, “I mean every word of it.”
Makers, hackers, craftspeople are awesome. Coronavirus does not stand a chance. Tweet, tweet.
Additional Resources for Open Source or Volunteer COVID-19 Projects:
A Facebook group was formed last week: Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies. It is worth a visit — in just a few short days there are 20,000-plus members and volunteers.
If you are looking for some research and street-level testing of various materials for DIY mask-making, this post from Smart Air Filters is exceptional: What Are The Best Materials for Making DIY Masks? It also includes a few great links at the end of it.
Forbes editor Amy Feldman just expanded on the developing story of a team in Italy that is 3D printing respirator parts. Read it here: Meet The Italian Engineers 3D-Printing Respirator Parts For Free To Help Keep Coronavirus Patients Alive.
Bloomberg confirms that the workers and communities around them are rising up to meet this challenge: Hospital Workers Make Masks From Office Supplies Amid U.S. Shortage.
March 22: Further updates in a forthcoming post related to 3D printing initiatives that can help.
Link to original Forbes Article: Calling All People Who Sew