Sitka Emergency Operations Center Announces Homemade Patient Mask Donation Program

SITKA, March 31, 2020 – On Monday, the Sitka emergency operations center (EOC) introduced a call to action to crafters to produce handmade surgical masks for donation to SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) facilities as part of the coronavirus (COVID-19) response. While SEARHC leadership has stated that their personal protective equipment (PPE) quantities are currently sufficient across the region, the Sitka EOC is hoping crafters currently sheltered-in-place would welcome the opportunity to help.

Multiple mask patterns are available online, such as https://www.craftpassion.com/face-mask-sewing-pattern/, https://sarahmaker.com/how-to-sew-a-surgical-face-mask-for-hospitals-free-pattern/, https://sweetredpoppy.com/how-to-sew-a-bias-tape-surgical-face-mask-with-flexible-nose/, https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Cloth-Face-Mask/ as well as many others. While SEARHC facilities are currently closed to visitors to reduce close contact and contamination, the EOC has identified the off-site drop-off location at the Harrigan Centennial Hall entrance.

“While homemade masks are not a viable replacement option for N95 masks, we at SEARHC do see the benefit of supplementing our supply of masks that we use for patients,” said SEARHC Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elliot Bruhl.  “There are opportunities to use these homemade masks for patients, potentially preserving some of our supply.”

N95 masks are approved respiratory PPE by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), properly fitted and constructed to protect from airborne particles.  Homemade masks are considered surgical masks, which are not CDC approved as they are not effective in filtering small particles typically transmitted through coughs or sneezes, including COVID-19.  When worn, these homemade masks could discourage touching of the face and protect from contact with liquids.  Homemade, cloth masks could be properly laundered for reuse.

Avoiding close contact with ill persons remains the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) preferred action to prevent the contracting of any virus.  The CDC also recommends the continued practice of everyday preventive methods, including washing your hands thoroughly and often; covering of coughs and sneezes; cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects; and getting a flu shot. SEARHC continues to recommend that patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, or immune compromise, should contact their doctor immediately if they become ill, while healthy people should stay home if they become sick.

For more information on the coronavirus, visit covid19.searhc.org, call the SEARHC COVID-19 Hotline at 907.966.8799, or visit the City and Borough of Sitka Covid-19 Information page at http://www.cityofsitka.org.

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