The coronavirus pandemic has hit hospitals across the world so hard that many health care workers have said they're in desperate need of protective gear. Masks and gowns have been in such short supply that many hospitals have begun accepting donations from the public to keep their doctors and nurses covered up, because homemade gear is better than none at all. Several companies are now joining that effort.
JOANN Fabrics recently kicked off a program to teach its crafty customers how to make face masks for healthcare workers. The company is distributing free kits with the fabric and elastic needed to make masks, which you can pick up in any open store.
You can make the masks at home with the help of a free tutorial. If you're a newbie to sewing and need a little more instruction, JOANN is holding sewing classes in store which the company says will be limited in size to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Joann stores will then collect the finished products and handle distribution.
JOANN's CEO Wade Miquelon says stores were seeing medical professionals come in to buy fabric for masks, and the company wanted to find a way to help. "So many are spending their time and money to help in this tragic situation, and we want to step in to do our part to protect the amazing people who are helping the communities we serve," he said. "It is a frightening time for many, but we have a generous community who can make a big difference as our healthcare system faces this crisis."
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JOANN's isn't the only store joining the effort to make protective gear for hospitals. Companies across the country have voluntarily converted their factories to produce masks. That includes Rough Linen, a California-based home brand that's now churning hundreds of masks a week for the staff of Kaiser Permanente.
The company says it collaborated with the hospital system to work out the safety specifications for the masks to make them as effective as possible. "This is a wonderful use for our linen," founder Tricia Rose said. "We always try to minimize waste and this is the best possible way for us to give back to the community when it needs us most."
Courtesy Rough Linen
In New York, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., the need for masks, gowns, and other protective gear became so dire that the state's governor took to Twitter to put out a plea for help. Thankfully, several designers and companies answered that call.
That includes designer Christian Siriano, whose team of seamstresses switched gears from high fashion to medical gear. They're now churning out thousands of masks a week and they're already shipping them out.
Other clothing companies have also stepped up. With retail stores shuttered in many locations, stores like Eddie Bauer and Gap have converted their factories as well. While the Gap will tackle masks, gowns, and scrubs, Eddie Bauer—which is headquartered near hard-hit Seattle—will focus on making N95 masks to be donated to Washington state, according to CNBC.
The need for this type of gear is truly staggering—one New York City hospital estimated it would need about 70,000 masks per day to get through the pandemic—so it's truly an all hands on deck situation. Whether it's a single crafter with a sewing machine or a massive corporation with a factory, kudos to all those helping to meet the demand.