Coping with PPE Shortages: DIY Cloth Face Masks

While fabric and cloth face masks are not a replacement for medical grade masks, there are still benefits to having them available. See how a group of DoveLewis staff and volunteers helped create cloth masks for our veterinary team.

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Current PPE shortages mean finding creative and innovative ways to offer protection for team members. The recommendation for medical staff is to wear N95 respirator masks during COVID-19. These masks are best at catching at least 95 percent of particulates and form an airtight seal over the nose and mouth. Simpler surgical masks are designed to stop splashes and droplets and can prevent a sick person from spreading germs to others, but they do not create a seal to protect from viruses in comparison to the N95 masks. However, as we are facing depleted supplies of PPE, discussions have arisen about the use of cloth face masks for the public.

DIY cloth face masks are even less protective than surgical masks. According to the CDC, these masks are supplements during a crisis to approved PPE and do not stop virus particles because of a lack of a filter fine enough to stop these particulates. However, they can provide some physical barrier for water droplets that could carry contagious particles (a nice way to say snot or respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze). Now it is understood that many asymptomatic individuals could unknowingly be spreading COVID-19. This is the reason for the current debate by health officials on whether or not the public should wear cloth masks when they go out to act as a protective barrier.

These discussions have led individuals at home looking for ways to help to make cloth masks for donation to clinics and facilities around the world. These donations provide contingencies for practices as we face continuing supply issues of PPE for employees who are looking for some form of protection. For DoveLewis and our community who want to help where they can, our hospital staff and volunteers have started to create cloth masks for employee use. This is helping to conserve our remaining supply of PPE for critical medical procedures.


We know that our available cloth masks do not protect the wearer from inhaling viruses. However, a mask may help keep the wearer from spreading disease and from touching their face as often. We seem to be hardwired to incessantly touch our faces and these masks can help alter this potentially dangerous habit.

Cloth masks also offer a sense of control over the invisible threat of this pandemic in addition to acting as some barrier to smother the brunt of a cough or sneeze and impede other people’s respiratory droplets. Any kind of protection is better than nothing during these uncertain times. Our team members are currently using the donated masks during client interactions while continuing social distancing as well as when staff have to work closely together to provide life-saving care for a patient. It also recognizes the kindhearted donation and brings a sense of comradery with the community as they look for ways to help. DoveLewis is continuing to find ways to take precautions to help reduce the spread of the virus while keeping our staff as safe as possible and the use of cloth face masks as a layer of protection can do so.

Below is the pattern from Deaconess that has been shared with our staff and volunteers who are looking to help. For an instructional video on how to make these masks step by step, click here.




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