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Hospital workers design their own face masks, using craft supplies

Ingenuity in the face of desperation.

Hospital workers design their own face masks, using craft supplies
[Source Images: FC, Vitalia/iStock]

Doctors and nurses are working around the clock as coronavirus cases mount, and protective gear, such as masks, is in short supply. So hospital workers are getting crafty—literally.

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At Providence St. Joseph Health hospital, near Spokane, Washington, 20 staff volunteers are using supplies found at craft and office stores to create homemade masks and face shields, before the facility runs out completely. According to a Seattle TV KOMO News segment, marine-grade clear vinyl sheets, strips of foam, elastic bands, and double-sided tape were all part of the designs.

“We are very close to being out of face shields,” Becca Bartles, executive director of infection prevention at Providence St. Joseph Health, said, adding that the facility, which is part of a 51-hospital system, is a couple of days from running out of masks.

Though the 20 volunteers were able to assemble 500 face shields (which guard against spray from sneezing and other bodily fluids) in a day, the team at Providence still plans on acquiring more materials from utility stores such as Home Depot and wholesale suppliers to make even more. Especially since there’s no indication that state health officials will be able to outfit hospitals with enough equipment any time soon.

“I think that they’re behind the eight ball on this, and there was plenty of warning that this was going to a problem,” Jennifer Bayersdorfer, Providence’s senior vice president for clinical quality, told Bloomberg.

The hospital is also developing prototypes for face mask designs that could use surgical wrap—normally used to line trays—to cover the mouths of doctors and nurses. But until more protective gear can be assembled, doctors and nurses are following federal authorities’ relaxed guidelines about reusing face shields and masks designed for one-time use. Some physicians are even washing masks with bleach to conserve valuable supplies.

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Time is of the essence in Washington: It is the state with the second-highest tally of known COVID-19 cases in the United States, with roughly 1,012 cases diagnosed to date and 52 deaths.

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