The new Wild West – Procuring PPE

Although it has just been 5 weeks since the United States went into quarantine, it seems much longer for hospitals and clinics that are not only trying to care for both Covid and non-Covid patients but also attempting to secure supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for their health care workers. Hospitals have first priority for masks, leaving clinics woefully under-supplied. Luckily, I am part of a large group of women who volunteer their sewing skills to create reusable menstrual pads for distribution in developing world countries. We repurposed the cotton used in the construction of the Days for Girls menstrual kits to make fabric masks. Other groups throughout the city had the same idea and soon elastic for the ear loops was difficult to obtain.

Ingenuity during this pandemic has been incredible and others have shared their solutions via the internet. The University of Florida designed a mask using recycled blue surgical wrap, normally thrown away after it has been used to protect sterilized instruments. This material is flexible, 99% impermeable to pathogens and can be re-sterilized multiple times for reuse. Our sewing group moved from fabric masks to the blue wrap material without a hitch in the process and soon had constructed 500 masks for both clinic and hospital use. Since then we have welcomed five additional sewing groups and will have finished 2500 masks by the end of this week. The masks are being used at both North Memorial Hospital and Voyage Healthcare clinics. As shipments of mass produced surgical masks make their way to our healthcare businesses, we hope to redirect the energy of all these seamstresses and provide masks to local organizations who may need them in the coming months.