Fearing N95 Shortage, St. Louis Calls for Homemade Masks

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Calling all sewing crafters (or just cut-and-folders), St. Louis County is looking for homemade masks so it can stretch its stockpile of N95 face masks through the life of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county Department of Public Health has evaluated its cache of personal protective gear, and officials are concerned they could run out of N95 masks — the model commonly used by health care workers, when they can get them — before this is all over.

The idea is that people working in support roles will be able to use cloth masks, leaving more N95s for the doctors, nurses and others who are treating or directly interacting with COVID-19 patients.

"The [Centers for Disease Control] notes that homemade masks are not considered PPE, as their capability to protect health care professionals is unknown, but this option is a better option than no option," the county says in a news release.

The CDC is now recommending anyone going out in public wear a cloth mask. To help, the CDC has posted a couple of patterns for homemade masks. There is an option for people who want to sew masks and one that shows the non-sewing public how to cut one out of an old T-shirt.

The CDC recommends that the general public skip the N95s so there are more for people most at risk.

If you or your organization can donate cloth masks, the county asks you to send an email to [email protected].

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected] or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.
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