TAMPA, Fla. — The global shortage of N95 face masks couldn’t have occurred at a more difficult time. As coronavirus-related hospitalizations increase in the United States, health care workers are searching for alternatives to the required N95 masks.
An alternative health care professionals are seeking out are cloth facemasks, which are typically made by people from the comfort of their own homes.
Adam Kless, vice president of Clinical Operations at Avant Healthcare, agreed. “When you're in extreme situations, as we find ourselves globally, you have to be innovative,” he said.
“I think people are doing the best they can, and chipping in,” he continued. “We have a global shortage of masks and it appears, based on what all the governors from around the United States are saying, we are not getting enough to put into circulation.”
After weeks of research, the St. Petersburg-based artist Jennifer Kosharek figured out what materials work best for cloth masks.
“Any mask you make at home is not going to be medical grade,” said Jennifer Kosharek. “We don’t have access to those types of materials, but this is better than nothing.”
She took notes from Dr. Chen Xiaoting, a Taiwanese anesthesiologist, who recommends people try “cloth masks” that are made with non-woven fabric.
“Some nurses are using them to cover their N95 mask to extend the life of it,” said Willa Fuller, executive director of Florida Nurses Association. “They take the cloth masks home to launder and re-use them.”
The Centers for Disease Control released new strategies to help people working on the frontlines protect themselves from COVID-19.
In an e-mail, the CDC said homemade face masks should only be used as a last resort. The Center said if health care workers “must” use a homemade mask, they should do it in combination with face shields that cover the side of the face and extend to the chin or below.
Although there’s a global shortage of N95 masks, Tampa General Hospital’s public relations strategists, Ellen Fiss said TGH currently has an “adequate supply of personal protective equipment or PPE.”
Fiss said the hospital is working with its medical suppliers to “keep supplies well stocked.”
“Although we thank our community members for their eagerness to help, we cannot accept offers of homemade PPE including face shields and masks because our PPE is specialized and is FDA-approved, and most of it must come directly from medical suppliers.”
Fiss noted that her team is only allowed to accept FDA-approved PPE supplies that meet the “rigorous quality standards of the hospital industry.”
If you’re considering a cloth mask for personal use, the World Health Organization says just using a mask won’t prevent people from contracting the novel coronavirus. You must also practice social distancing and continue to wash your hands.
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