People Are Sewing Face Masks for Medical Workers. Should They?
First things first, the recommended option for health-care workers treating patients with COVID-19 are N95 respirator masks, because they catch at least 95 percent of particulates. Simpler surgical masks are designed to stop splashes and droplets, and can prevent a sick person from spreading germs to others, but they do not create a seal and are nowhere near as effective as N95 masks at protecting health workers from the viruses. DIY cloth face masks are even less protective than surgical masks. But under extreme circumstances, where facemasks aren’t available, the CDC says homemade masks might be used, combined with other protective gear.
“Homemade face masks are not considered personal protective equipment, and should be an option only when there are absolutely no respirators or facemasks left, and used with other protective equipment, such as face shields,” CDC spokesperson Arleen Porcell said.
Why are some hospitals asking for homemade masks?
In part, some hospitals are asking for masks because they don’t want to turn away people who are seeking a way to help their communities’ battle against the coronavirus. Hospitals say they could use the masks for patients and health-care workers who have no chance of COVID-19 exposure, preserving more-protective equipment for higher-risk situations.
So, should you crank out homemade face masks for health care workers?
In the end, it’s up to you. No one knows whether the moment will arrive when hospitals decide to dip into their stockpiles of homemade masks. Meanwhile, we know that hospitals need factory-made N95, surgical masks, face shields, and gowns right now, so donate them if you have extras. You can also make a cash donation that will help hospitals buy the equipment they deem the most essential. Consider whether there is a way to use your time and resources to help someone with an immediate need, instead of a possible need.