Volunteers sew masks for health workers facing shortages


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In this Sunday, March 22, 2020, photo, provided by Christina Hunter, Briana Danyele sews cloth face masks that say “We Got This!” in her mother’s living room in Greer, S.C., which will be sent to health care workers. Legions of everyday Americans are sewing masks for desperate hospitals, nursing homes and homeless shelters amid the expanding coronavirus pandemic. (Christina Hunter via AP)

CHICAGO (AP) — Bill Purdue waterproofs basements for a living, but he has spent the past few days in his buddy’s Washington, Indiana, auto trim and upholstery shop cutting rectangles of cotton fabric that his friend sews into face masks.

Fashion designer Briana Danyele left Italy last month to return to her mother’s Greer, South Carolina, home, where she has turned the living room into a mini sewing factory, making masks that she embroiders with the words, “We Got This!”

They’re among scores of people answering pleas from hospitals, doctors and nurses so desperate for personal protective equipment amid the viral pandemic that they’ve turned to the public, saying do-it-yourself face masks are better than nothing.

For most people, the new virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority recover.

Businesses are stepping up.

Crafts chain Joann Stores is making all of its 800-plus stores available for up to 10 people at each location to sew masks and hospital gowns, offering sewing machines and supplies, spokeswoman Amanda Hayes said.

Hayes said the number of people allowed in the stores adheres to CDC guidelines, the sewing stations will be six feet apart and staff will continuously sanitize the work areas and materials. The company also has special kits for customers who want to make masks at home.

“We’re enabling people to feel like they are contributing at a time when we don’t have control,” Hayes said.

In Baltimore, almost 285 volunteers with 618 3D printers between them are making plastic face shields for Johns Hopkins and other area hospitals and dropping them off at a maker space called Open Works. Executive Director Will Holman, who organized the effort, said he laid off 21 part-time employees last week because of the virus but has rehired some to assemble, sterilize and package the shields.

Danyele, the South Carolina fashion designer, said she made about 200 masks bound for a local nursing home and hospitals in Florida, Georgia, Indiana and Illinois.

“If I’m one person creating 200 masks, imagine what we all could do,” said Danyele, 24. “It’s super sad that we’re at this point, but this is encouraging.”