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As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, the demand for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers is growing by leaps and bounds.
Meanwhile, the public is also encouraged to wear masks and gloves while out of the home to contain the spread of the virus.
To help meet this growing demand, WellSpan Health announced in mid-April that it is joining the effort to make and distribute protective masks. The health system is joining the One Hundred Million Mask Challenge, an initiative of the American Hospital Association (AHA).
“As we prepare for the expected increase in COVID-19 patients in our community and hospitals, the safety of our caregivers is critically important,” said Roxanna Gapstur, Ph.D., RN, president and CEO of WellSpan Health, in a news release.
The “challenge” is a nationwide effort to protect the safety of caregivers, started by Providence Health and Services, a nonprofit Catholic health system that manages hospitals in six western states.
“We’re asking our friends, neighbors and community partners to come together to help us meet this challenge,” Gapstur said.
Many businesses that remain open are mandating their employees wear masks and the Pennsylvania Department of Health has issued guidelines that advise anyone leaving their home to wear a mask in the face of the pandemic. As of 8:00 p.m. Sunday, all customers and employees of essential businesses in Pennsylvania are required to wear one.
AHA is calling on manufacturers, the business community, and individuals across the country to coordinate efforts to rapidly produce needed PPE.
Good’s Store Inc. in Lancaster and Lebanon counties will be doing their part, and have developed a mask pattern, free to the public, as well as kits for purchase containing enough cotton material and elastic to make 20 masks.
All four Good’s stores in the area (Schaefferstown, Ephrata, Quarryville, East Earl) will be drop-off points for WellSpan masks, with a tote stationed outside each store.
The donated masks will be used for WellSpan staff who are not caring for COVID-19 positive patients, said Cynthia Stauffer, the health system’s senior media relations and communications specialist.
“The need for these masks is even greater now that all staff members are required to wear a mask while at work,” Stauffer said. “Additionally, the masks will be going to patients for their use while under our care….we are also talking with our community partners to learn how we might share supplies with other groups as needed.”
WellSpan has opened mask donation sites across south-central Pennsylvania, including one in Lebanon and one in Ephrata. Donations will be accepted Monday through Friday.
The Lebanon dropoff location is at the Volunteers in Medicine health care clinic, 711 S. Eighth Street, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Ephrata dropoff point is at the WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital, 501 Alexander Drive, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Good’s Store Inc. is happy to help, said owner Mark Burkholder.
“It’s our local hospital and that’s why we’re doing it, to help our hospital,” Burkholder said.
Jim Shenk, director of development at WellSpan, told Burkholder about WellSpan’s need for the masks and Burkholder immediately agreed to become a part of the solution. Loretta Sensenig of Good’s Store developed the pattern that is being given to customers.
WellSpan compiled the specifications for the masks, the size, and additional details on what they were looking for, and presented that information to Good’s in a nine-page slideshow presentation, Sensenig said.
“That’s where I came in,” Sensenig said. “I condensed the information into one easy-to-understand sheet and that’s the pattern we have available at our stores.”
The masks can be sewed by hand, but anyone going for quantity would need to use a sewing machine.
Sensenig’s pattern was sent to WellSpan for approval, which was quickly granted.
“There are many different types of masks out there and what appealed to me was how quickly WellSpan approved our design,” Burkholder said.
Sensenig is a graphics designer who also sews, Burkholder said, so it was a perfect match.
“That’s what we contributed; her time and her skill,” Burkholder said.
The fabric kits come enclosed in a one-gallon zip-lock bag, Sensenig said, adding that finding enough elastic was the hardest part of the endeavor.
“We know that many people are looking for elastic and Good’s Store went to Philadelphia for our elastic,” Sensenig said. “It’s becoming harder to find.”
Zimmerman Chair Shop on Colebrook Road has also cut out fabric for hand-sewn masks for WellSpan.
“We’re basically a drop-off point for masks now,” Sensenig said. “The biggest effort is getting the pattern out to people.”
Find more instructions from Good’s on how to construct the masks here.
Read all of LebTown’s COVID-19 coverage here.
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Full Disclosure: WellSpan Health is an advertiser on LebTown at present. LebTown does not make editorial decisions based on advertising relationships and advertisers do not receive special editorial treatment. Learn more about advertising with LebTown here.