At many hospitals and assisted living facilities, face masks are now in short, or nonexistent, supply because of the coronavirus.

Local community members have taken action, sewing their own masks and donating them to places in need.

"I wanted to do something to help instead of sit at home anxious about everything," said Bonnie Mohs in a phone interview on Tuesday, March 24. Mohs works part-time at Red Pine Quilt Shop and is a retired FACS teacher from Detroit Lakes High School. "This was a way I thought I could help."

Mohs was interested in making face masks after seeing the idea on social media. She contacted a friend at Ecumen to check if there was a need, and was sent Ecumen's pattern late Monday afternoon, March 24.

"If people have made masks, we will gladly take them," said Sue Lee, the spokesperson for Ecumen. "There's a great desire for people to do something to help. That's a really lovely thing to do."

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Mass shortage of personal protective equipment

According to the CDC, the use of handmade face masks is reserved for a crisis situation when there are no other face masks. On Wednesday, March 25, NPR reported that health care professionals are experiencing a mass shortage of all personal protective equipment, especially N95 respiratory face masks.

One version of the face masks aims to replace the N95 with a pocket for a filter and adjustable wire to form to each person's face. Another version aims to replace the surgical masks, made just out of material.

Some businesses are only accepting the replacement N95 version, while some accept both.

Ecumen is only accepting the replacement N95 version, according to a Facebook post. The donations will be distributed to any of their locations in need, though the number of masks needed is unknown, Lee said.

Other local locations accepting masks are:

  • Golden Manor: accepting the N95 version with a pocket for a filter and adjustable wire.
  • Essentia Health Lincoln Park Assisted Living: accepting all handmade masks.
  • Essentia Health-St. Mary's Clinic and Hospital: accepting all handmade masks.

Each of the locations didn't have a set number of masks they needed. All the Detroit Lakes assisted-living facilities were contacted and, of the ones that responded, some said they don't have a need yet but may accept them in the future.

Since receiving the filter and wire template, Mohs had eight masks in progress at noon Tuesday. She's making her masks out of the "boutique fabric," she said, because it has a tight weave, and is prepared with 100% cotton material when that runs out.

The 100% cotton material is what Nikki Caulfield, owner of Skirting the Rules, is using for her face masks. She, like Mohs, started making the masks after seeing it on social media, but also had multiple people ask if she was making them, Caulfield said. On Monday, she started making them with the materials she had around her shop.

"I'm making the very simple, nonfiltered ones," Caulfield said in a phone interview on Monday, March 24. She added that she will make different versions as needed.

For both Caulfield and Mohs, donating the masks is their priority; they aren't selling the products right now.

"There's one thing about quilters and women in general: If there's a need we tend to step in and do our best to fulfill that need," Mohs said. "We have the time, we have the volunteer spirit, and we're looking for something that we can do to help the cause ... instead of sit back and do nothing."

Make your own masks

To donate masks, contact local assisted livings and hospitals directly. Many locations are accepting other donations as well.

As a public service, we have opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.

For more information, contact Karen Pifher at Karen.Pifher@Essentiahealth.org or call 218-255-3919. (Submitted graphic)
For more information, contact Karen Pifher at Karen.Pifher@Essentiahealth.org or call 218-255-3919. (Submitted graphic)