Members of the central Illinois Facebook group COVID-19 Mask Making said they have already made and delivered more than 1,000 masks to dialysis centers, long-term care facilities, rural hospitals, and other healthcare outlets.
The group formed and started work even before state and national healthcare leaders called last week for people to wear masks in public.
“We have had a lot of nursing homes. A lot of private service nurses who don’t have time to make the masks themselves, so we make masks for those kinds of folks,” said Kim Cusac of Heyworth, the administrator and delivery person for the group.
Cusac said the effort came from Jennifer Campbell, a special education teacher in Heyworth who put out a call for people who could sew.
There are now more than 170 people involved in creating masks, said Cusac, 210 just last week. She said she has dropped masks off at more than a dozen locations in McLean, Livingston, and Dewitt counties.
Initially group members collected and traded information about mask patterns and found out what medical facilities need.
“A lot of people want to become members of the group so they can get tips on how best to produce the masks and so it’s a lot of sharing ideas,” said Cusac.
Cusac said some of that was conflicting information at first.
And there are many ways to make a mask.
“You know you’d be surprised,” said maker Carol Carey Odekirk.
Some require three pleats with two pieces of fabric and either elastic around the ears or a head tie. Others have a pocket to put a filter in. Some people use pieces of heap-filter vacuum cleaner bags, said Odekirk. Some have flannel or T-shirt knit on the inside and cotton on the outside.
And then there are patterns. You can get your plaid on or do a sports team design.
“Some of my masks were made out of Halloween fabric. I didn’t need it and why don’t we scare the virus away,” said Odekirk. “I have seen some Chicago Cubs masks. People are just using whatever they have.”
Healthcare workers also may wear headbands with buttons so the elastic can go around the button instead of the ear, said Odekirk. She said she sewed 26 last week in about 15 hours.
“Elastic is the supply that everyone is running out of and you cannot order it on line. So, that’s why people are moving to ties. And elastic around someone’s ear can rub the ear raw. Also, you can adjust the fit much easier with a tie than elastic,” said Odekirk.
Some people are even going to dollar stores to buy Ace bandages and cutting those up for the elastic ties.
“The group has found some extremely creative ways to make the ties which include hair bands, shoelaces, and even elastic used to make women’s underwear,” said Cusac.
Not everyone has to be as productive as Odekirk.
“I had a gal from work say she wants to help, but it would take her so long. I said that’s okay. Any sort of skill is welcome. She said 'Like the ones I learned 40 years ago in 4H?' Yeah. And so, she has made just a few masks. But, anything helps,” said Cusac.
And group members said they hope the masks will last. The take a little bit of work to keep them clean. The online advice includes - get a clean bucket, hot water, half a spoon of detergent, soak for 10 minutes, wash it out and rinse it, soak it for 10 minutes in an antiseptic liquid. And then rinse and dry. Don’t bleach.
Cusac said the main goal to get them to front line workers.
“A lof of people tell us they will wear a cloth mask over their N95 mask because they are only getting so many N-95s allotted to them, so they put our masks over them to make them last longer. Then they wash out the cloth masks,” said Cusac.
“Lots of people have wanted to donate monetarily, but we don’t know what to do with that,” said Cusac.
She said everyone is working from their own stash of fabric and supplies.
“We are trying to do it in a united fashion and pool resources to fill requests, but everyone is getting individual requests as well,” said Cusac.
“We are getting more and more requests every day and ones we can’t fill,” said Cusac.
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