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Coronavirus

Downers Grove-area crafters making homemade masks to address shortage

Melissa Melcher-Hosni and other Downers Grove-area residents have taken to making homemade cloth masks to help address the shortage of critical supplies that hospitals face with the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Photo provided
Melissa Melcher-Hosni and other Downers Grove-area residents have taken to making homemade cloth masks to help address the shortage of critical supplies that hospitals face with the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Photo provided

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Rebecca Adelman typically makes floral wreaths and upcycled clothing with her skills as a crafter.

She's found a new calling.

As hospitals and others on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic face the prospects of a shortage of critical supplies, Adelman and other residents in the Downers Grove area are doing their part to help.

Adelman, a Downers Grove resident, encountered the lack of protective masks first-hand in late February, when she couldn't buy any more. Her mom has end-stage multiple sclerosis, and Adelman wears a mask when she comes in close contact with her.

"We haven't been able to get masks since the end of February as a public and I was like 'I got to do something,'" Adelman said. "I couldn't find any, so I thought I'd make my own. When I first started I thought 'There's no hospital that would want these,' but the more I started looking into it and talking to people, whose husbands and wives are doctors and nurses, I realized [the shortage] is a problem."

So Adelman and others have taken to their sewing machines to help, making cloth masks. Adelman said that doctors, nurses and others would not use these masks alone as a safeguard against the virus, but as a cover for the N95 masks that health care workers are being asked to use multiple times because the supply does not meet the expected increased demand.

From her home in Downers Grove, Adelman has made about 200 masks. She's created a Facebook page, DG Area Mask Makers, and estimated that there's about 50 people making masks and other supplies – and more people and supplies are needed.

"It's like an assembly line. It's a really quick project once you know what you're doing," Adelman said.

Downers Grove resident Melissa Melcher-Hosni, a quilter who normally makes items for family and gifts for friends, was getting out a new quilt to make when the call to start making masks came.

She used to live in Portland, and a sewing shop there announced that a local hospital was putting out a call for homemake mask makers.

"I've made 20 masks myself, and I made 20 kits for someone to make them and I'm starting on surgical caps," Melcher-Hosni said. "I'm doing two-ply masks. I'm not pretending that they alone make you safe from COVID-19, but if nurses are being asked (by the CDC) to use bandanas these should be a little better."

This week, Edward Hospital and Health Services sent out a message to members of a Naperville-area moms group, in response to an offer of personal protectice equipment, that the items most needed include N95 masks, surgical masks, nitrile gloves, isolation gowns, goggles and thermometers.

The message from Edward advised that "we will be happy to accept any donation of PPE equipment you have and if we're not able to use it we will try to connect it with other organizations that can."

The biggest issue Adelman is encountering in her mask-making is the extreme shortage of elastic. She said a yard of material can make 10 to 12 masks.

"You can't buy any elastic," Adelman said. "I'm taking old T-shirts, leggings, anything with a high elastic count. We're trying to get creative and do what we can."

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