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Volunteers respond to requests for homemade face masks amid COVID-19 shortagesSubmitted: 03/25/2020
Story By Stephen Goin

Volunteers respond to requests for homemade face masks amid COVID-19 shortages
WISCONSIN - Local volunteers are donating their time to sew protective gear for medical providers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Heather Augustyn, of Antigo, is one of those volunteers. She's a member of the Wisconsin Face Mask Warriors Facebook group.

"Part of the reason I guess I feel like this is so important is my mom is an RN [registered nurse]," said Augusytn.

The group was created Saturday and already has more than 250 members. Members of the group have already received thousands of requests from across the state for face masks and medical gowns.

In northcentral Wisconsin, Augustyn said there have been about 400 requests but the need is still growing.

"I've now heard of doctors who have been told, you have to wear this one mask all day long and then you have to reuse it the next day," said Augustyn. "So they are desperate for these things and something is better than nothing."

Emergency responders, nursing homes and health systems like Aspirus and Marshfield Clinic have requested homemade masks from "sewists" like Augustyn.

Terri Wilczek with the Marshfield Clinic Health System Foundation said the homemade masks are a big help in a time of crisis. 

"The response was overwhelming, I've been working in philanthropy and fundraising for 20 years and I don't think I've seen anything quite this magnificent," said Wilczek.

Wilczek said the CDC doesn't normally advise homemade masks but now suggests them in certain cases amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

At Marshfield, homemade masks won't be used by doctors or nurses; Wilczek said medical providers will continue to use industry standard PPE. Homemade masks will instead be given to patients and other patrons.

"Our goal is to ensure that every person that walks through our doors is offered a mask," said Wilczek.

The Face Mask Warriors Facebook group is open to anyone who wants to help, not just "sewists." Agustyn said volunteers are also needed to cut fabric and deliver masks to their final destination.

Medical providers looking for homemade masks or gowns can fill out this form.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), face masks are only for those who are sick or those caring for the sick.


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