ELKHART — Protective gear like masks and gowns are in huge demand at local health care facilities as nurses and doctors fight the coronavirus, county officials say.
But residents are doing their part to help health care workers help the rest of us. In Elkhart, one mask-making project that started with Ami Tack contacting her mother-in-law, Christine Tack, is growing quickly.
“I reached out to her because she can sew and I can’t sew,” Ami Tack said. “And I just picked up all the supplies and did a lot of the hand sewing and stuff, and we made 20 masks and gave them to my sister’s doctor’s office over the weekend.”
They realized the need after staff members at that doctor’s office, where Tack’s sister is a nurse, were asked to give their medical masks to the hospitals.
“I wanted to make sure my sister was kept healthy,” Tack said.
The Tacks found instructions for making homemade masks online and used quilting scraps and pool filters, though it took a little while to get it right.
“Trial and error,” Tack said. “I started by using vacuum cleaner bags and they didn’t really work very well, and then I chopped apart a couple of different furnace filters and they weren’t ideal.”
After she posted about the project on Facebook, the owner of local RV supplier ObeCo reached out.
“He’s got 20 sewing machines and some people kind of sitting dormant, and we’re going to work on this together and start getting some more masks made through his production facility,” Tack said.
With the campaign comes an additional need for fabric and filters. People who want to donate can get in touch at email@example.com or make drop-offs at ObeCo Inc., 2521 Industrial Parkway in Elkhart.
“A little spark turned into a big fire, and it’s kinda cool,” Tack said.
For those who want to start making masks themselves, www.coronavirus.beacon healthsystem.org has information on how to make them. To arrange pickup or delivery of masks, contact bhssupply firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan King, president of Beacon Health Foundation, said Beacon Health wants every employee and every hospital patient to get a mask.
“We’re trying to conserve our current supply of face masks that we are able to get from vendors and the community for those that are applying direct patient care, and we have a limited supply at the moment,” she said.
And getting this kind of support from the community, both companies and residents, is special.
“It’s really amazing,” King said. “It makes our front-line caregivers feel really supported as they’re fighting this every day on the front lines.”
Homemade masks are not for medical staff dealing with patients who might have COVID-19, she said. Professional-grade masks are needed for that, as homemade masks are not as effective at keeping out particles.
“But they certainly do cut down on potential infection for the wider community,” she said.
So far, King estimated Beacon has received about 2,000 masks, and more are coming.
When it comes to what materials are used, King said there is some flexibility.
“We’d like it to be a tight, closed weave,” King said. “We’re suggesting cotton, but it doesn’t need to be.”
In Elkhart, finished masks can be dropped off at the Elkhart Police Department, 175 Waterfall Drive, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and in Goshen, at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair office 24 hours a day. The fair office is at Gate No. 3, 17746 C.R. 34.
Outside of health care facilities, it is not recommended that healthy citizens wear masks.