Hospital workers in Washington state have started to make their own face masks from supplies they’ve purchased at craft stores, according to a new report from Seattle’s KOMO TV station. The DIY face masks are just the latest example of health workers around the world getting creative as they struggle with shortages of vital medical supplies during the covid-19 pandemic.
Staff at Providence St. Joseph Health hospital volunteered and spent much of Tuesday constructing personal protective equipment (PPE), like face shields and surgical masks, from supplies bought at craft stores in the Seattle area.
“These face shields offer protection from spray and splatter,” Jennifer Bayersdorfer, Chief Quality Officer at the hospital, told KOMO while demonstrating the homemade equipment.
The state of Washington is one of the hardest-hit areas in the U.S., with the highest number of fatalities from covid-19, though New York state has more cases. Washington has at least 1,012 cases and 52 deaths, while New York has over 1,500 cases and 16 deaths. A stunning 27 of Washington’s deaths have been tied to a single nursing home, the Life Care Center in Kirkland, making it clear that personal protective equipment is vital to ensure the safety of both vulnerable patients and health care workers.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused shortages for vital medical supplies worldwide, in everything from facemasks to ventilators, but many people online are trying to do whatever they can to mobilize DIY solutions.
Some people have designed 3D-printed ventilators and posted the plans online, some of which can be made for as little as $100. Others are designing valves and other crucial components for the machines. And some hospitals in Italy, which are currently being inundated with covid-19 patients, are even getting help to actually 3D-print some of these parts, according to reports online.
A 13-year-old girl in Japan has also drawn praise for making 612 homemade masks and donating them to the elderly and people in need, according to Japan’s Mainichi news outlet. The girl saved up her own money for the project, and spent 80,000 yen, roughly $740 US.
The U.S. has at least 6,496 cases of covid-19 and 114 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker. And those numbers are only going to go up in the coming weeks, putting enormous stress on the health care system.
The U.S. currently has about 160,000 ventilators, according to rough estimates from the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, and an additional 12,700 in the national reserve. Needless to say, America will need a lot more in a very short period of time.
People all over the world are likely to be locked down for the next 18 months if the infectious disease experts’ assessments are correct. But even as people lose their jobs, hopefully, we can mobilize the world to come together and support our health care workers however we can. Based on the photos we’re seeing in places like Italy, they’re going to need all the help they can get.