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Two C.O. efforts work to make needed masks for hospitals

Central Oregon businesses band together to help produce medical supplies

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Medical masks are in high demand but short supply in Central Oregon, like many places, so a group of outdoors businesses and others helping in a volunteer capacity are working to create masks for hospitals.

St. Charles Bend, like many hospitals, is in need of masks, as well as isolation gowns. The hospital uses roughly 800 masks a day. Masks are their biggest supply challenge, but they're also having difficulty stocking gowns and gloves.

Now, Bend apparel designer Kim Brennock is working with outdoor companies to produce them. So far, Brennock has contacted the hospital to get specifics on their immediate need, in addition to working with medical centers in New York.

Her team has been outsourcing and researching ways to obtain more waterproof, breathable cotton material and make medical-grade N-95 and N-99 masks that can be seam-sealed for hospital use.

Brennock said Tuesday all of her information has been provided by hospital staff. A challenge she's facing is speaking with federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Drug Administration.

"If the materials can be acquired and the information is there, production can begin immediately," Brennock said. "We can begin producing things by the end of the week. Just the same as people sewing masks, one by one by one. If you have a whole production line doing that, you can make quite a difference."

Meanwhile, a Facebook group called Central Oregon Emergency Mask Makers has partnered with local groups to make masks and other resources, and they've already sewn about 1,000 masks.

Right now, they're in the first phase, making cotton masks. Phase 2 is face shields, Phase 3 is gowns and covers, and Phase 4 is medical-grade material. The Facebook group is in communication with the hospital, in addition to collaborating with other local groups and companies like Hydro Flask.

Surgical technologist Laura Wang, a member of the group said, "It's truly inspiring, really. We want the medical staff to know that we have their back, and we are more than willing to help."

Mask production is a critical need right now, and many are turning to homemade versions, but experts say those are not designed to block the spread of COVID-19. 

St. Charles Bend said in online guidance amid a week-long donation effort that they are most in need of adult-sized masks.

"These will not be used in place of personal protective equipment, but rather to prolong our supply," the hospital said.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.


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