In a time when shortages of many items are the norm, the community is stepping up to help.Masks, especially N95 personal protective gear, may be the most effective way to protect healthcare workers and first responders from COVID-19, are in short supply, so are cloth masks that aren’t as effective but provide some protection.
Due to widespread community-based transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended cloth facial masks for anyone venturing outside the home, especially in “areas of significant community-based transmission.”
And Shelby County residents are heeding the call for more cloth masks.
Stitching a group together
Messages began to pop up on social media from health-care workers, first responders and older people with under-lying health conditions, all needing masks.
So Kim Rop decided to act.
“I started seeing Shelby County needs pop up on Facebook,” she said.
Rop is a media clerk at Shelby County High School.Although she is still working, providing non-traditional instruction, she is spending her free time sewing cloth masks.And she’s not alone.TeamworkSeeing the need continuing to grow, Rop formed the Facebook group, Sew Medical Masks Shelby County KYand many of her teacher friends jumped on board. “We have a lot of Facebook contacts,” she said.More than 80 people are helping, whether sewing, donat-ing supplies like fabric and elastic or coordinating need.“I may have created the group, but I’m not doing this onmy own,” Rop said. “Donating fabric is equally important.We couldn’t do it without every single person.”
Emergency Management Director Chris Spaulding is one of Rop’s neighbors. “He joined the group to keep up with need,” she said. “If I get requests from medical facilities, I let him know. If he gets PPE in, he tries to get it to people who really need it.
”The most active members of the team are Alix Schmidt, Edith Webb, Chellie Gaither, Christy Jones Kenner, Terry Walther, Annie Anderson and Penny Wigglesworth.
“I love my community and I love these women who are helping make a difference,” Rop said.
Distribution and need
A huge need exists in the community.
Hosparus Hospice of Louisville needs at least 1,300 for staff and patients, nurses in the community want extra protection, assisted living facilities need masks and individuals with health issues in the family want protection.
“We’ve distributed to nurses, Crescent Place assisted living, Kroger employees, circuit court, the chamber and families with a sick child or someone with cancer. Individuals are in dire need,” Rop said.
Distribution is a shared responsibility within the group. “Some are dropping off at my house if they don’t know where to take the masks,” she said.
Rop alone has made and distributed more than 100 face coverings. “In my group, the masks number in the hundreds, but we’re not really keeping count.
”One woman completed 100 on her own. “We’re doing what we can while working from home,” she said. “We still have our normal jobs, but I can create masks in my craft room.”
Rop began creating these masks when in-person school was canceled, and her group will continue to make these personal protection equipment as long as need remains.
She knows cloth masks aren’t high tech and will only give some protection, but healthcare workers are fitting these cloth masks over surgical masks to ration higher-grade equipment.“As long as there’s a shortage of PPE, something is better than nothing.
The governor is saying the peak may be in May, but I don’t see an end until summertime, maybe late summer.”
And experts are warning that the virus may get a new foothold in the fall when flu season starts. If that happens and there is still a short-age, the group will be ready to answer the call – with help.
“We welcome more sewers,” Kim said. “There is such a huge need. We would love people to join us and help make these masks.”
Anyone with extra fabric or elastic can contact the Facebook group.
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