Local U-T Extension Office recruits volunteers to make fabric masks for health care workers

Published 10:44 am Sunday, April 12, 2020

A line of people waited outside the Elizabethton Walmart on a recent morning. A few wore masks, some wore gloves, and all were careful not to stand too close together. This seems to be the new norm as people wear masks while grocery shopping.
Food City announced this week that it will soon be providing employees with masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Smith noted that many shoppers are wearing face masks, a trend that seems to be increasing as many adjust to the situation.
The Carter County U-T Extension Office and 4-H youth in an effort to meet the demand for face coverings have issued an invitation to the public to join in making fabric masks for the health care community through the statewide TAFCE Masks of Love Project.
Vickie Clark of the local U-T Extension Office said the masks are easy to make, and definitely a valuable way to help others if you can sew and have fabric at home. The UT Extension Office in Carter County (located on E. Elk Ave. across from the Carter County Courthouse) will be a drop-off point for the masks. “There will be a drop-off container on the front porch in which the completed masks can be placed,” said Clark. From the office, masks will be distributed to community agency needs.
Clark said the fabric face masks are not intended for use as personal protective equipment, so they do not provide total protection from coronavirus, like an N-95 mask. However, some protection is better than none. “Some health care workers are wearing the fabric masks over their approved masks to make them last longer,” said Clark.
The community project is for individuals who have fabric and materials at home. “We do not request anyone to go purchase fabric, nor host a sewing party with friends. We still need to respect ‘Safer at Home’ community policies. Of course, also, if you are sick, please do not participate,” said Clark.
Clark also noted that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends wearing cloth face mask coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, including at grocery stores and pharmacies.
With face masks in short supply for health care workers and first responders, DIY tutorials have exploded in popularity. Clark said the face masks promoted by the UT Extension Office is approved by Vanderbilt Hospital.
“Right now there is an immediate need for over 500 face masks for local nursing homes. Additionally, many states as well as the CDC are now suggesting everyone wear some kind of face mask when they have to go out – so the need in Carter County will continue to grow,” said Clark.
She offered some guidelines to making the masks:
  1. Choose cotton, tight weave fabric. No flannel. Before sewing, wash fabric in warm or hot water with regular detergent and dry thoroughly at the highest setting appropriate for the fabric. This prevents future shrinkage of masks. It is recommended for recipients to wash masks before initial use, and launder routinely after use. Healthcare providers will know how to sanitize the cloth masks for their purposes.
  2. The pattern recommended is a Simple Fabric Mask with three tucks. (Recommendation – Vanderbilt Hospital.) Use only two layers of cotton fabric, no lining or filters. Please steam iron completed masks.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox