SPOKANE, Wash — There is a nationwide shortage of surgical masks right now, which is creating difficulties for health care workers.
Last week, Providence hospitals in Western Washington created the "100 Million Mask Challenge," calling on volunteers with sewing machines to help.
But as of Monday, the website now says it no longer needs those donations. That's because manufacturing companies have stepped up to rapidly produce masks and face shields.
Providence Sacred Heart in Spokane confirms it is not accepting homemade or hand-sewn masks because it has to be sure they are sanitized.
But on a strict, limited-basis, some personal protective equipment (PPE) are being reused.
Only caregivers are wearing masks that are cleaned for reuse. The hospital spokesperson said after the cleaning process, the products are as safe and functional as brand new ones.
While this may be the case, the Spokane community is still finding ways to help address the need for masks.
Jo-Ann Fabrics is giving away free, pre-cut mask kits to donate to local hospitals and those in need. Each adult or child-sized kit includes five sets of cotton fabric, thread, and elastic strings.
There's also several local Facebook groups seeking to make their own masks in response to the shortage.
Patty Garegnani created the "Spokane Area Mask Kaking Covid-19 Response team" on Facebook.
The group of 140, and counting, are sharing techniques and supplies to make masks for those who need them in the Spokane community.
"We're not factories, but we're going to start producing these like little mini factories from our home," Garegnani said.
While Spokane hospitals are not accepting handmade masks, Garegnani and her army of helpers plan on donating them to other industries.
"Like the nursing homes, childcare and firefighters," Garegnani said. "We know for sure we can work with those groups. Granted these are not medical grade masks. It's just they are some form of protection. We don't advertise whatsoever they we're going to save the planet with these things. But we're just trying to be helpful the best we can until supplies can start to come in."
Washington State Nurses Association Spokesperson Ruth Schubert said on Saturday Washington's Department of Health received a shipment of gloves, gowns masks and suits from the federal Strategic National Stockpile.
She said the state will soon distribute these supplies to counties.