FAYETTEVILLE -- Some Northwest Arkansas residents are sewing masks intended for health care workers whose supplies may run short, but most of the larger hospitals in the region said they are unlikely to accept them.
Arkansas Arts and Fashion Forum, which hosts Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week, is giving away material for people who want to sew the masks at home and bring them back to the organization's office in Springdale, said Robin Atkinson, the group's chief executive officer. Arkansas Arts and Fashion Forum plans to donate the masks to hospitals and clinics, she said.
Symptoms of covid-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The Centers for Disease Control recommends people wash their hands, avoid close contact with sick people and avoid touching their eyes, noses and mouths with unwashed hands.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
"We booted this up with fabric that we have on hand that we use for our sewing classes," she said.
Atkinson estimated they have enough material for at least 1,000 masks.
Natalie Hardin, spokeswoman for Washington Regional Medical Center, said standard surgical masks are loose-fitting, disposable masks creatinga barrier between the wearer's nose and mouth and potential contaminants in the immediate environment. N95 masks are respiratory protective devices filtrating far more airborne particles than standard masks.
"Masks are utilized for the type of precaution that is needed based on patient acuity," she wrote.
The homemade masks made of tightly woven cotton are closer to the quality of standard masks, Atkinson said.
"These masks very much do not replace N95 masks," she said.
"Though we have adequate supplies of masks on hand today, we appreciate our community and their work to support us," Hardin wrote. "Sewn masks would only be appropriate in certain situations, but, if those situations did occur, we would be happy to have them."
Health care workers may use homemade masks including bandanas and scarves as a last resort if no face masks are available, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face," according to the centers' website.
Northwest Health, which has five hospitals throughout the region, is preserving and conserving its personal protective equipment as recommended by the CDC, according to Beth Wright, spokeswoman for Northwest Health.
"If an organization is interested in donating medical-grade personal protective equipment, we would certainly welcome their support. In fact, we were very pleased today to receive a donation of personal protective equipment from the University of Arkansas nursing program via Dr. Tabatha Teal," Wright said.
"While we very much appreciate offers of homemade masks and the desire of so many people to provide support, we are not accepting these at this time," she wrote.
Jennifer Cook, spokeswoman for Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas in Rogers, said the hospital has plenty of supplies for now, but knows that could change.
"We really appreciate people sewing these masks, but we can't use them, unfortunately," Cook said.
The hospital cannot guarantee the homemade masks are safe, she said.
NW News on 03/25/2020
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