July 15, 2020 — One of the most vexing problems posed by the COVID-19 Pandemic has been ensuring the safety of medical personnel and first responders from becoming infected while treating others. One of the best ways to keep these essential workers healthy is with the use of personnel protection equipment (PPE), which includes gloves, gowns and masks.
Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) names mask wearing as the single most effective way to deter continued spread of the virus from person to person, along with face shields and other facial coverings.
In addition, this past Monday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a change to the state’s mask policy, mandating them to be worn in all outdoor situations where physical distancing is not possible.
In the months since the beginning of the pandemic here in the U.S., guidance from the Oregon Health Authority and the CDC regarding mask usage has evolved, shifting from being described as primarily protection for others, to being considered the safest way to protect oneself.
This, along with a growing acceptance among the public that the wearing of a face mask is a matter of personnel safety rather than a political statement, has added to the demand for what is already an overburdened supply system.
One of the ways in which communities like Florence have been dealing with the limited availability of PPE is through sewing them by hand or on sewing machines.
Locally, a number of different groups and people are currently engaged in the production of masks. But one of them, Minutes of Gold, has turned its prodigious sewing skills to the challenge.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Minutes of Gold’s focus was on creating layettes — or clothing — for babies and infants who have passed away. The group has distributed thousands of support packages to grieving parents around the country over the past decade and has received significant support for its work from the medical community.
Minutes of Gold founder Carol Slaugh said that although the group has not been able to meet for its weekly sewing sessions, they decided there were ways they could put the materials and equipment they have to use.
“We delivered patriotic masks to all of the employees of the Florence Police Department, Siuslaw Valley Fire Department, first responders and all of the U.S. Coast Guard [Station Siuslaw River]. We distributed 145 masks of red, white and blue stars, with a ‘Happy Birthday, America,’ card,” Slaugh said. “Since March 23, we have supplied over 1,600 masks to the Florence community.”
The ladies from Minutes of Gold aren’t the only ones in town helping to diminish the impact and dangers associated with the current lack of masks in the community. Another individual assisting in the creation and collection of PPE is Vanessa Flosi, who is a mother to students in the Siuslaw School District.
According to Flosi, she was concerned for the safety of school staff and other first responders.
“With the help of Siuslaw Elementary School, I have made 520 masks that have been donated throughout the community since March, with 210 of those being donated to Boys and Girls Club and 30 to the Coast Guard. Currently I’m at 700 masks, my goal is 1,000 and once I reach that I’ll set a new goal,” Flosi said.
These are just two of the community-based efforts to help fill a need that clearly exists here and now and will continue to be a danger for the foreseeable future, according to Slaugh.
“Realistically, this will be an ongoing project until they produce a vaccine. Public awareness is critical but so many are uncooperative. We are hoping ‘fun’ masks might win over a few of them,” Slaugh said. “My next effort for mask awareness is to make a sign, ‘Kindness Matters — WEAR A MASK,’ for those businesses that would like to post it.”
For more information about obtaining masks, or to donate materials or funding to the effort, call or text Flosi at 602-577-6623 or email Slaugh at [email protected]