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Central PA doctors facilitate homemade mask making group to prepare for shortage

Doctors in Union and Montour County are making emergency masks and bleach with the help of volunteers.

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Dr. Karen Korzick is the co-director of her hospital's Critical Care department. 

The Coronavirus pandemic is forcing Dr. Korzick and her colleagues to think outside the box -- planning for the day N-95 face masks and hospital-grade disinfectant wipes run out.

"Realizing that if our PPE were to run out and we weren't able to protect ourselves until the normal supply chains re-open, some of my friends and colleagues could die," Korzick said.

Korzick has set up this work station in her basement, where a group of volunteers has been making kits filled with all the supplies needed to assemble homemade N-95 masks. They're partly made of HEPA fabric -- a material used to make vacuum cleaner bags. Studies have shown the material can filter particles in a similar way to real N-95 facemasks.

"Based on the science of what HEPA fabric is and what it filters compared to a standard surgical mask or a cloth mask, would actually provide protection against the viral particles better than a cloth bandanna would."

The kits are being given to local sewing groups, churches, and other volunteers who have offered to sew the masks.  

They're also making bleach kits with all of the materials to make sanitary wipes.

" We would be distributing the parts, the components like this [unmixed]  and then a hospital system could decide whether they want their central supply to mix it or if a kit like this would go directly into a COVID care space."

The work stations are set up 6 feet apart from one another, so volunteers making the kits can still practice safe social distancing

Korzick is working with hospital officials and suppliers to ensure the homemade materials are as close to the real thing as possible.  

She recommends anyone who wants to donate time or resources to help combat COVID-19 joins a group led by medical professionals. 

 "There's a tremendous wealth of intellectual capital manufacturing resources a lot of which is closed right now looking for ways they can help health care supply things like woven fabric gowns, caps, potential barrier type standard masks."

Korzick says they have more than 50 volunteers in their group and have raised about $11,000. 

Even if you can't sew, you may be able to lend a hand. For more information, you can find the group on Facebook.

Click here for their GoFundMe page