The global demand for personal protective equipment in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic has created a severe shortage of equipment across the world, a Ballad Health news release Tuesday said, including at the local health care system.

“To help preserve its supplies, the health system is accepting donations of handmade face masks for patients who present to its hospitals and other facilities with respiratory concerns,” the news release said.

Because the masks are not medical grade, they will not be worn by team members as they provide care, it said.

“Rather, they’ll serve as a vital barrier for patients who come in with respiratory ailments, and they’ll also help prevent patients from touching their faces,” the release said.

MASK REQUIREMENTS

Anyone in the community can make and donate masks. Ballad Health set several requirements that the masks:

  • be constructed in a clean environment without smoke residue or pet hair
  • be created from fabric that is clean and washed in hot water before being sewn
  • include two 8-inch squares of woven cotton fabric and a mid-weight non-woven fusible interfacing fabric, as well as bindings, a metal wire for the nose structure and elastic ear loops
  • are made from new, tightly-woven fabrics, such as quilting cotton, cotton and cotton-blend poplin

A sewing pattern and instructions are available at www.balladhealth.org/COVID19.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our communities have been asking how they can help,” Lisa Smithgall, senior vice president and chief nursing executive for Ballad Health, said in the news release.

“The most important thing they can do right now is stay home and remain committed to social distancing – but while they do that, they can also help protect our team members by making these masks.

“We’ve heard from multiple churches and local sewing groups about how they can create and donate these masks, and we’ve happily created a mechanism and system for them to do so,” Smithgall said.

When completed, masks can be donated at Ballad Health Medical Associates Urgent Care locations, including the Greeneville location at 1744 E. Andrew Johnson Highway. The Greeneville urgent care is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Mask donations can also be mailed to Ballad Health’s auxiliary/volunteer services department at Professional Park #1, Suite 16, Johnson City, Tennessee, 37604. All donations should be sent in a clean plastic bag.

Anyone with questions about sewing or donating face masks can call 423-431-2325 or email volunteers@balladhealth.org.

Updated news and information about COVID-19 is available at www.balladhealth.org/COVID19.

USE OF MASKS

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, N95 respirators and surgical masks, also known as face masks, are examples of personal protective equipment used to protect the wearer from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face.

“It is important to recognize that the optimal way to prevent airborne transmission is to use a combination of interventions from across the hierarchy of controls, not just personal protective equipment alone,” according to the FDA website.

Many Americans are using their spare time at home to sew and assemble masks out of spare and recycled fabric, elastic and other materials.

The Centers for Disease Control advises that while homemade face masks can create a loose-fitting barrier that could reduce the spread of some germs, they are not designed to block the spread of COVID-19.

One government health care official said the N95 respirator mask is the only type of mask that the CDC considers effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

The official said that the general public does not necessarily need to wear a mask, unless an individual is sick. Healthcare officials advise that anyone who is sick should not go out in public.

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