Jessica Cejnar / Wednesday, March 25 @ 5:26 p.m. / Community, Emergencies, Health

Need A Project? Public Health Accepting Homemade Face Masks To Help Stretch Resources During Pandemic

While a homemade face mask aren't recommended for medical professionals, members of the public can use them when they visit local clinics. Photo courtesy of the Del Norte County Public Health Branch

For Del Norters who know how to sew and are looking for a project, the local public health branch is collecting homemade face masks.

Constructed of a tight-weave cotton fabric and elastic rope or ties, the masks wouldn’t work in medical settings as a first-line of defense against COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But local public health representatives think they could provide comfort to patients.

“Our thinking is we would give them out to clinics in order to give to the public (for) patients who are walking in and coughing,” Del Norte County Public Health Nurse Shelby Bodenstab told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Wednesday. “It’s not necessarily for health care providers who are providing care to patients, not at this point.”

In Del Norte County, 40 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of 5:03 p.m. Wednesday. The results for 33 tests have returned negative and seven are pending, according to the Del Norte Public Health Branch.

On its website, the Del Norte Public Health Branch offered instructions for constructing the face masks, along with access to a tutorial on YouTube. According to the instructions quilting cotton is a good choice for the fabric. It must have been purchased within about a year, never used and washed and dried using products without fragrance or dyes before sewing.

The masks can be fastened to the face using elastic rope, such as elastic beading cord, bias tape or strips made from fabric, according to the instructions.

According to Bodenstab, public health representatives are searching for ways to optimize the use of personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns and gloves. Homemade masks can be given to the public while medical-grade masks can be reserved for healthcare professionals, she said.

“People are really willing as they spend time being stuck at home to help us out,” Bodenstab said. “We thought this would be great to take advantage of and our hope was to direct those activities so people weren’t calling hospitals and clinics asking where they should go. We could be the repository for that.”

As emergency officials at the local, state and federal level prepare for a surge in COVID-19 cases, resources are scarce, Del Norte Public Health Officer Dr. Warren Rehwaldt said in a presentation to the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors.

“We need more personal protective equipment,” he said. “We need more ventilators, oxygen concentrators, basic medical stuff to get the job done and take care of people.”

While the public health system has developed to better handle a pandemic since the SARS outbreak in 2002, Rehwaldt said, it’s currently resource poor.

According to Bodenstab, JoAnn is offering tutorials on how to sew a face mask and is offering tools and kits at its stores.

“We’re definitely not the first department directing people where to give masks, what to do and how to make them,” she said. “We thought there’s people in the community that have been talking about it, we might as well give them some good direction.”

Hand-sewn cloth masks can be dropped off from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Del Norte County Public Health Branch, 400 L Street in Crescent City. People are urged to call (707) 464-0861 before they drop masks off to ensure someone will be able to accept them.


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