A group of local volunteers are firing up the sewing machines, producing masks out of elastic and fabric to donate to local medical professionals and first responders.

Kathy Cochran, of Centerville, used her Facebook page to post a call for volunteers with the idea and its grown beyond 10 volunteers so far. She posted several tutorials on her Facebook page Saturday.

Fabrics should first be washed and dried. For adults, the fabric should be cut 6 inches wide and 9 inches long, she said. The fabric is double layered to make one mask. She then sews the layers together with elastic.

Cochran said she’s had several helping her, including Kathy Doll, Buffy Hurley, Patti Bennett, Sherri Parker, Paige Warren, Gloria Moorman, Jamie McDanold, Lo Dickinson, Martha Vansickle and Hope Faris, as of Saturday night.

“People are dropping off supplies and donations have been amazing!” Cochran said.

The goal is to make at least 1,000 masks, Cochran said. The masks will be handmade and washable and will supplement the supply of the N95 masks that are facing severe supply shortages in the midst of the pandemic.

Handmade masks are approved for use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a last resort. With supply chain limited, that last resort may come.

The Associated Press reported Friday that their analysis of trade data showed a sudden drop in imports of test swabs, protective masks, surgical gowns and hand sanitizer. The decline began in mid-February when China shuttered factories amidst their outbreak of the new coronavirus.

South Korea, India and Taiwan are also blocking exports of medical supplies to save them for their own citizens, the Associated Press reported.

Supplies on hand at MercyOne Centerville Medical Center meet the normal demand and are in stock currently. Though, hopes aren’t overwhelmingly confident that the hospital will be able to purchase enough supplies to meet increased demand as the coronavirus pandemic encroaches on the community.

In Centerville, cases of confirmed COVID-19 continue to encourage. On Saturday, officials reported a confirmed case 40 miles away in Kirksville, Missouri. On Monday, news of a confirmed result in Wapello County was announced by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Local officials are calling on area industries who have these supplies without an immediate need for them to donate them for use by first responders and medical staff.

Items sought include Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer, masks, gowns, gloves, face shields and goggles. Individuals or companies who can spare these items are asked to drop them off at the Appanoose County Public Health Office in Centerville. They can also be left at the Centerville Fire Station outside the southeast door.

The items will then be distributed to hospital or clinic staff, and emergency responders in the area for use.

“This is an unprecedented public health disaster, and stocks of personal protective equipment for health care providers are being used rapidly,” Ken Sharp, division director of Acute Disease Prevention at the Iowa Department of Public Health said. “Any organizations that have extra PPE supplies that aren’t immediately needed should consider donating them to help those on the front line of this disease.”

Beyond that call, Ann Young, a vice president at MercyOne Centerville Medical Center, said the hospital is working with local public health officials as well as their parent organization in Des Moines to order additional supplies.

The hospital posted on their Facebook page Saturday they’re thankful for local volunteer’s efforts to sew handmade masks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kyle Ocker can be reached at kocker@dailyiowegian.com or by calling the newsroom at 641-856-6336. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker



Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Daily Iowegian. Prior to becoming editor, Ocker was a correspondent, sports editor and associate editor at the Daily Iowegian, and was the managing editor of the Knoxville Journal-Express.

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