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Volunteers Sewing Protective Masks for Arizona Health-Care Workers

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A group of nurses and other health care workers show off protective masks made for them by Arizona volunteers. (Mask-Making-4-AZ)
A group of nurses and other health care workers show off protective masks made for them by Arizona volunteers. (Mask-Making-4-AZ)
March 31, 2020

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- One Arizona woman's call for help to sew masks for health care workers has gone viral and has grown into a group of almost 500 volunteers from across the state.

A post a little more than a week ago drew an overwhelming response and led to the formation of the Facebook group Mask Making for Arizona Healthcare Workers. Chandler resident Shannon Brannan said she got the idea to organize a group after she saw a similar undertaking out of Atlanta.

She said she's happy the group can help but is concerned over the reason there is a need.

"It's difficult because I feel like we shouldn't be in this situation," Brrannan said. "Our health care workers here on the front line should not be having to bring in ready-made masks. They should be provided. Their families are being put at risk."

Brannan said the internet "just blew up" after she posted her original note, and she and a few friends have spent much of the past week getting the enterprise organized. She said the group's volunteers produced more than 750 masks just over the past weekend.

She said they decided to put some rules in place so no one could "meet up" as part of the effort. Each volunteer must apply and agree to a set of guidelines.

"It's a closed group where people need to answer the questions, because we are not promoting for people to be meeting with one another to get fabric," she said. "The goal is to use what you have, because people need to keep their butts home."

The masks her volunteers make at home, called ready-made masks, are sewn from a recommended pattern published online by health care groups. Some health care officials, however, have warned that home-made masks may not be suitable to protect workers from pathogens.

Brannan said they are not designed to replace the masks doctors and nurses use to deal with coronavirus patients, but some hospitals allow them to be used for other health care tasks.

"The N95 masks are the ones that people on the front lines are using," she said. "But we have nurses right now who are contacting us because they can't use those masks unless they're working on a COVID-19 patient. A lot of the hospitals now have agreed to let them bring their own ready-made masks."

All masks made by the group are first dropped off at a local cleaners and are pressed and sterilized before they are distributed. Brannan said they are working with a number of health care groups and hospitals who have put out a call for extra masks. She said the group will continue to make masks as long as there is a need.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ