Hey Creative Friend,
When I see the images on TV regarding the COVID-19 crisis especially in New York City, it breaks my heart into several pieces.
New York is the next state over to the south of my state. I love New York. I love to go there for entertainment, culture, and shopping. It’s less than a two-hour drive for me. I fly out and into the New York airports whenever I have to fly out of state. It’s my second home state.
So, I’m devastated to see that it’s the epicenter of the corona virus in the United States. However, I do understand how the virus could have spread so easily in a place like New York City. The lifestyle in the city and the density of people is a recipe for spreading this type of virus like a wild fire.
I keep asking myself, “what can I do to support New York City?” So, when I saw the movement to create homemade masks on the internet, I was excited. I said to myself, there’s something I could finally do. However, my excitement was short lived when I researched into this further.
I realized that there was a lot of confusion around the messaging for sewing DIY masks. Is sewing DIY masks worth it? Will it save lives?
Will Homemade Face Masks Save Lives?
In order to answer that question, I spent several hours online reading articles about whether or not these masks were useful.
I saw healthcare facilities which were asking for donations of homemade face masks and other facilities which were refusing to accept them. Until yesterday, the largest healthcare group in my area – Yale New Haven Hospital – was refusing to accept them.
The large healthcare group that started the 100 million mask movement which got me excited about sewing homemade face masks in the first place, suddenly changed its mind. Now, on their website they say they don’t need them anymore because:
“Local manufacturing companies have stepped up to rapidly produce masks and face shields for us on a large scale.”
I was conflicted. To make them or not to make them?
Some hospitals are really reaching out to ask for donations while others are saying, “not so fast”.
The thing I’ve heard that comes close to a resolution is this: “They’re better than none”.
On the other hand, opponents say, using the home-made masks give people a false-sense of security because these masks don’t protect you from being infected with the corona virus. Also, their use reduces the pressure on authorities to provide the correct gear to those who really need them.
A 2015 study done in Australia of over 1,500 workers testing cloth masks against surgical masks concluded that
“cloth masks should not be recommended for health care workers, particularly in high-risk situations”.
We’ll all agree that health care workers dealing with the corona virus are certainly in a high risk situation.
Having said that, here’s what the updated CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines say:
In settings where face masks are not available, HCP (health care professionals) 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 (Health care professionals) 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.
Here’s what I think. Two things:
- For personal use, the homemade face masks prevent us from touching our faces and transferring the virus from our hands to our faces. It’s important to know their limitations, though. They may not prevent the virus from reaching us through droplets when someone coughs, sneezes, or simply speaks. So, we’ve got to continue taking the necessary precautions even when we wear them.
- Our health care workers are safest when they have the right personal protective equipment (PPE). And they do deserve to have the best gear. Reports that more than 3,000 New York City police officers are out sick with the corona virus is unacceptable. When we’re all running away from the virus, the frontline workers are running towards it in order to save lives.
I know I’m not alone in this conundrum. We have the means, the skills, and the ability and we want to help in any way we can. In a time lacking any sense of normalcy, familiarity brings solace. And for us, we’re very familiar with sewing and can do it very well.
However, if we choose to make homemade face masks, we deserve to understand whether our efforts are helping the people we want to help. That’s the least we can ask.
Now that you’ve got the facts, you can decide what you want to do.
If you’re trying to resolve this issue for yourself and you choose to make some homemade face masks, my advice to you is, find a healthcare facility that is specifically requesting them. There are many tutorials available online. However, be sure to choose wisely. Some healthcare facilities want you to follow their approved tutorials, which totally makes sense.
If you’re sewing masks for people you personally know, then you can choose any tutorial you want. Please help them understand the limitations of homemade face masks, so they’ll continue practicing social distancing, diligently washing their hands, and protecting themselves even when they wear these masks.
Below, I’ve put together a list of resources to help you navigate making homemade face masks.
- Facilities needing homemade face masks
- Mask for Heroes – Match healthcare needs to donations
- Homemade Face Masks Pattern – Fitted Face mask with Filter Pocket
- Face Masks Pattern – Cricut and Silhouette Files Included
- Homemade Face Masks Design – Public Health England
- A comprehensive list of hospital needs by state plus specific pattern guidelines
Stay safe and stay well.
Kathy Garringer says
There are other studies besides the Australian one. I will try to link to one. A couple say that cotton face masks are 50% effective compared to 95% for the N95 https://smartairfilters.com/en/blog/best-materials-make-diy-face-mask-virus/
Here is Another https://smartairfilters.com/en/blog/category/coronavirus/
Clara Nartey says
Kathy, thanks for sharing the two links from this particular website. Some of the studies they referenced also cautioned that diy masks should only be used as a last resort.
In my article, I mentioned that the obvious conclusion is that diy masks are “better than nothing”. They’re not perfect (95%) but they can help – 50%.
Ultimately, my intention is to give people the information so they can make informed decisions based on facts and their own personal levels of comfort.
The masks I made are by request, including several health care professionals and a local 1st responder organization. They are not professional quality PPE but will extend the usable life of PPE.
If I can help calm someone’s anxiety, I will try to help.
Clara Nartey says
Jo vdmey says
We are making masks here for specific requests. We have health care workers who go to the general public daily. Now that this virus has spread to the public we are helping those who do not get n95 masks. Homecare workers. Those delivering groceries. Those in essential businesses.
I’m caring for elderly parents. I have to go there. I have to go to the grocery store for them. If it can protect me or them from 50 to 87 percent. I like those odds added with good handwashing and hygiene skills better then none.
Choosing wisely based on the information given.
Thanks for the informative information. Stay well. Stay safe!
Clara Nartey says
You’re welcome, Jo.
God bless you for all you do.
Stay well and stay safe.