Mandy Ottley

Mandy Ottley sews masks at her house.

What can people do to help during a quarantine order in the middle of a pandemic? Why, sew masks for medical professionals of course.

Dozens of people around Quincy are pulling out their pins, needles and thread to give back for a good cause, Mandy Ottley said. Due to the shortage of medical masks, clinics and hospitals around the country are asking people to help make cloth masks to provide some level of protection. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending the use of cloth masks among lower risk medical workers to increase the supply of certified medical masks like n95s.

“Glenda Bishop called and asked me if I could get my sewing ladies together and make some masks,” Ottley said. “So there are quite a few ladies in the community that make the Days for Girls (sanitary) kits that we send to Haiti and so I contacted them and said, ‘We were going to do this, could they help?’”

Bishop is the director at the Quincy Valley Medical Center. The masks are a huge help, Bishop said, because they extend the supplies of the n95 medical masks for those dealing directly with potentially infectious patients.

“I am incredibly grateful. I cannot even tell you,” Bishop said. “When that first supply came in yesterday, we immediately gave them to our staff.”

It isn’t as easy as it looks to make a mask, though, Ottley said. For one thing, the masks need interfacing, which is put behind fabric to make it more rigid, according to Pellon, an interfacing manufacturer.

“(The interfacing) is non-woven,” Ottley said. “If it is woven then little particles can get through. So non-woven there is a little better chance of being protected.”

The masks also require metal bands along the nose and elastic strips or ties to secure them around the head, she said. The sewists are running out of strips so they are using ribbons, tapes, all kinds of materials, to tie it to the back of people’s heads.

“Otherwise there are openings in the mask if you don’t get the metal clip in the way they’re fitted and that doesn’t help them,” Ottley said.

One of the benefits of the masks is they can be washed and reused, she said. It’s important because medical staff need to change masks every 30 minutes.

Bishop asked the group to start making masks on March 21, Ottley said. By Monday they had produced around 76 and their goal is to make at least 200. But they’re now considering other people in the community who could use masks, from cashiers to school staff providing meals to children.

They are dropping the masks off at the Quincy Hardware and Lumber store where the clinics and hospitals are picking them up, she said.

“So I’ve been telling people whatever you make, get them in that day and then just go home and start over again the next day,” Ottley said.

It can be challenging, because it requires self motivation, she said. Sewists can’t get together in a group and help one another, but in the midst of all this chaos, people are more than willing to help.

“This is pretty serious,” Ottley said. “And once a person finds out about something like this, they are willing to step up and do stuff. It is getting the word out that has been the hardest.”

If you would like to help make masks, contact Mandy Ottley at 509-760-1272.

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