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Experts Warn Against Homemade Face Masks as Hospitals Accept Donations.

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Connecticut residents are sewing face masks in anticipation of a shortage because of COVID-19. (Adobe Stock)
Connecticut residents are sewing face masks in anticipation of a shortage because of COVID-19. (Adobe Stock)
 By Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CT - Producer, Contact
March 24, 2020

HARTFORD, Ct. -- Groups are springing up across Connecticut to sew face masks at home to be donated to hospitals, but some experts warn they will not protect from COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website says health care providers can use bandanas and other homemade masks as a last resort. But one surgeon under self-quarantine, who preferred to remain anonymous, said they should not be used in place of personal protective equipment such as N-95 respirator masks.

"For health-care providers, they're wholly inadequate and equivalent to not having any PPE," she said. "For people on the front lines to be using cloth masks is putting our most valuable resource right now at risk."

Studies have shown cloth masks trap moisture and do not effectively filter out tiny virus particles, so they are ineffective at protecting health care workers. However, they can help patients who are contagious reduce the spread of the virus.

On Monday, a building trade union pledged to have its members donate N-95 masks to hospitals around the country.

Facebook groups such as the Connecticut Face Mask Warriors are posting patterns and encouraging people stuck at home to make a difference. Mariah Haley, from Lebanon, has ordered materials online and plans to start sewing masks this weekend.

"We're home and finding things to do to focus on," Haley said. "I'd rather it be for something that's good and going to something and helping everyone. Something's better than nothing, right? Because we're going to be short on having the supplies needed."

Paul Kidwell, senior vice president for policy with the Connecticut Hospital Association, said it is up to each individual hospital to decide whether to accept the masks.

"We have posted information on each of our individual hospitals, specifically their COVID-related websites, and you can go there to see if those hospitals are accepting those mask donations," Kidwell said.

Hartford Health is requesting that the masks be washable and may use them to support patients who are sent home to self-isolate in order to preserve stocks of medical-grade masks for hospital personnel.

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