When labor and delivery nurse Mandy Clark ended her 12-hour shift at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center on Monday, she took off her medical-grade protective mask and put it in a bag. She would have to use it again for her next shift.
Clark and thousands of medical professionals across the country are seeing a mass shortage of personal protective equipment that is vital in their work on the front lines as COVID-19 continues to spread.
"It's scary," said Clark, who works with expectant mothers. "The patients I see are usually young and healthy and may not show symptoms but still be carriers."
The need has grown so dire that nurses, doctors, their families and friends have taken to social media.
"I saw a post," said Corvallis resident Krystal Roberts. "I like to craft, I have cotton and I can work, so I thought I would help."
Crafters across the mid-valley have started sewing masks to help fill the urgent need. Samaritan Health Services has posted a link to acceptable patterns for homemade masks and asks that they be made from tight-knit cotton fabric and that the fabric be pre-washed.
In the span of a few days, Roberts, who works from home but has seen a decline in her dog-walking clients, had sewn 10 masks, but the task is growing more difficult as supplies continue to dwindle.
The masks are now being made with fabric ties rather than elastic bands. Hospitals need elastic bands that don't contain latex, and according to Roberts, the supply of that material hasn't kept up with the demand.
"Quarter-inch elastic is gone; we can't find it," she said.
The 40 members of the Corvallis Modern Quilt Guild can't find the material either and have switched over to fabric ties when possible.
Between Friday night and Monday afternoon, the group, with help from Mary's River Quilt Guild, sewed 377 masks.
"We're working with the hospital in Corvallis," Corvallis Modern Quilt Guild President Pattie Dix said. And as of Wednesday, the group had received a request for 100 masks from a local hospice.
“I have been encouraged to see the many ways our communities, clinicians and employees have been pulling together to respond to this pandemic threat, including the commitment to social distancing that will help reduce the number of cases and prevent hospitals from getting overwhelmed,” said Samaritan Health Services President and CEO Doug Boysen. “This is another incredibly helpful way our community partners can assist us to care for patients. I thank you on behalf of everyone at Samaritan Health Services for any donations.”
The Corvallis Clinic, as of Wednesday, was not accepting homemade masks, but a spokesperson said discussions were ongoing and the clinic may start accepting masks in the near future.
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