Sonja DuFriend, a San Diego County resident, has family who work in healthcare and like all of us is struggling with how to help during the Covid-19 pandemic. She found her outlet in the making of masks to combat the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). San Diego County HHS, following CDC guidelines, mandates all essential employees that may have contact with the public wear facial coverings. Also they strongly recommend all residents wear masks when leaving home. San Diego County officials report at their daily press briefings to have distributed over 2 million units of PPE to date, however hospitals and care facilities still feel providing PPE to their staff is a daily struggle.
To help alleviate the limited availability, the CDC has recommended homemade facial coverings for non-medical use. For guidance on what qualifies as effective face coverings and how to make it, the CDC has provided this resource. Even U.S. Surgeon General Adams has provided a DIY video. Now, local communities are taking up the call. From local co-op groups of homeschoolers to individuals like Sonja, homemade masks are filling a real need in our community.
Joann’s craft store is Sonja’s go-to for her supplies, and no wonder with the resources and tutorials they’ve published to help their customers. Unfortunately the current climate has affected their business, as well. “You had to wait in line to get in,” said Sonja. “And there weren’t just older people there. Lots of young people there said they learned to sew and borrowed their mother’s sewing machine just to make masks.” While Joann’s still had fabric options, their availability of elastic was limited in stores and online. Undeterred, Sonja used the elastic removed from a fitted bed sheet for some of her masks. For others, she used ribbon.
Another source Sonja used for quality cotton material were donations to her by friends from their linen closet. An older, gently used 100% cotton top sheet would supply enough material for about 50 masks. A surprising amount of high quality older linens like this were available in the back of people’s closets. The running theory is that they were wedding gifts that were saved for use during a special occasions. Likely these were found alongside a dish set that goes unused as well.
Sonja can produce an average of 10 masks a day and has made about 120 to date. While most of her labor of love has gone to neighbors, family and friends, she did have enough to make a delivery to Palomar Health, who were grateful for the donation. Asked if there was any issue with the ribbon ties in lieu of the elastic, they responded with, “We’ll take anything we can get.”
Facial coverings are not a substitute for hand hygiene, social distancing, or cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. When used all together these can limit the spread of Covid-19. We thank Sonja and everyone like her who is helping increase availability of personal protective equipment. We look forward to seeing more of this new fashion trend.