Screenshot from a YouTube video on how to make a medical face mask. (Photo: Screen capture from YouTube)
Screenshot from a YouTube video on how to make a medical face mask. (Photo: Screen capture from YouTube)
EVANSVILLE — Citing shortages, Deaconess Health System, including Henderson's Methodist Health, will ask the public Wednesday to sew face masks for staff fighting coronavirus.

"This does follow CDC protocols that you can find on their website that if all other supplies are not available, that handmade masks that meet certain criteria are acceptable," Deaconess spokeswoman Becca Scott said.

Scott said a news release with instructions about how to make the masks to CDC guidelines will be issued in the afternoon. Deaconess also has "a sample video" about how to make the masks, which Scott said will be sterilized when they come in. 

"This is not outside CDC guidelines if other supplies are exhausted. And so we want to have these coming in," Scott said.

Shortages of specialized masks moved federal health officials this month to liberalize their recommendations about which face protection front line health-care workers should use to ward off the highly contagious disease stemming from coronavirus.

The CDC posted new guidelines stating that “the supply chain of respirators cannot meet demand” and that looser-fitting surgical face masks “are an acceptable alternative" to specialized masks commonly known as N95 respirators. Surgical face masks can block the respiratory droplets of coughing or sneezing patients — the principal way the virus is spread.

Experts say the N95s filter out about 95 percent of airborne particles, while the more common surgical masks reduce — but don't eliminate — the odds of inhaling large, infectious particles. The CDC had been recommending health-care workers who work closely with coronavirus patients or those suspected of being infected wear N95 respirators, gloves, gowns and eye protection gear.

The CDC recommends N95 respirators be reserved for protecting workers in more dangerous and risky settings. The CDC guidelines also recommend health-care facilities consider alternatives to the N95 masks.

Researchers have studied recent flu season infection rates among health care workers at seven U.S. medical centers. Workers assigned to wear N95 respirators and others wearing surgical masks demonstrated no significant difference in flu infection rates, according to the study published in September in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

To counteract shortages, federal health officials plan to purchase 500 million N95 respirators over the next 18 months.

Vice President Mike Pence said this week that President Trump's administration supports legislation that “would extend temporary liability protections, so (N95) masks made for industrial use could be sold so hospital workers could be protected.” Pence said that would “make more N95 masks available.”

Chemo Buddies asking for mask donations too

Jill Kincaid, Chemo Buddies Founder and CEO, said chemotherapy patients are one of the largest at-risk groups for any germs, including COVID-19. She said those at treatment centers have been told there are no masks for them.

Kincaid said Chemo Buddies is stepping up with volunteers who are willing to make masks and are asking for other donations. She asks people drop off completed masks to their office at 3700 Bellemeade Ave, Suite 118. THey will be laundered and delivered to infusion centers.

The pattern can be found at turbanproject.com/patterns.

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