Area seamstresses making face-masks for hospital workers. Will they help?

FORMER STATE REP. and Democratic candidate for Missouri State Treasurer Vickie Lorenz Englund has been among those making cloth face-masks for hospital workers. – Photo courtesy of Englund’s campaign committee

We all want to do something to help during public health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a current shortage of N95 face-masks normally worn by hospital workers, seamstresses around the bi-state region are firing up their sewing machines to make masks for hospital workers, but will their efforts actually help?

Jenn Dean, Labor representative for National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United, which represents nearly 700 nurses at Saint Louis University Hospital, says they are not recommending their members use the masks or that hospitals accept them because studies have shown they may not be effective.

“As of now the studies done on cloth masks are showing that they are not effective at preventing infection and may actually become sites for infection,” Dean said.

Representatives from several health care systems across the St. Louis region said they are not accepting homemade masks at this time because of strict safety regulations.

However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the homemade masks may be used as “a last resort” in combination with other protections when proper face-masks are not available. “Homemade masks are not considered protective equipment since their capacity to protect is unknown,” the CDC says. “Caution should be exercised when considering this option. They should be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front and sides of the face.”

Dean says there are other actions community members can take to help frontline hospital workers.

  • Sign and share a petition to Congress at to demand that nurses are protected during COVID-19.

  • Call your state representative to ask them to support a bill before Congress allowing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enact an Emergency Temporary Standard to protect healthcare workers.

  • Demand President Trump use the authority he has under the 1950 Defense Production Act to direct U.S. manufacturers to mass produce N95 respirators and other critical protective equipment for health care workers.

  • Demand state and local officials use all available resources to secure the highest standard protective equipment and distribute it to our hospitals immediately.



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