Local sewers asked to hand-sew face masks for hospitals to combat supply shortage

WAUKESHA (CBS 58) -- A nationwide trend to combat the shortage of medical supplies is now headed to the Milwaukee area. Quilters and sewers are uniting to hand-sew face masks for hospitals.

A local group has spearheaded efforts to make 1,000 masks. There are currently three sites where anyone with sewing skills can pick up kits and drop off finished masks:

  • Sew Much More, a fabrics store in Waukesha.
  • Ben Franklin Crafts in Oconomowoc.
  • Gina Magnus's home at 1025 N. Morgan Road, Oconomowoc.

Wendy Rieves, store manager at Sew Much More, said there has been so much interest over just the last few days that the store has already sold out of the elastic needed to make the masks.

"I have a feeling that the community is really going to rally behind this because quilters -- people who work with needle and thread -- want to heal the world, and this is a way that they can do that," Rieves said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says handmade masks -- including scarves and bandanas -- are only to be used as a "last resort." However, many local health professionals acknowledge that they could be reaching that point soon.

Many of the masks being made will head to Rogers Behavioral Health in Oconomowoc when they are completed. A spokesperson for the hospital system told CBS 58 they are "very appreciative" of the efforts to help.

"We're just overwhelmed by the generosity," said Anne Ballentine from Rogers Behavioral Health.

Hospital officials have approved two specific patterns, and only certain fabrics are approved.

It is likely that handmade masks would only be used by hospital officials who are not treating positive COVID-19 cases, and that doctors on the frontlines would continue to use N95 masks.

Many hospital employees and first responders locally say they are now having to reuse masks until the masks have broken down completely.

Ballentine said her hospital system has entered "conservation mode" meaning they are doing everything they can to conserve the supplies they have while still following CDC guidelines.

Anyone looking for information about making the masks can go to Sew Much More's website.

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