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San Luis Obispo Co. community members help make face masks amid shortage

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Posted at 4:07 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 23:27:02-04

With more people spending time at home due to shelter-at-home orders, some are coming up with unique ways to give back to the community.

Wilshire Health and Community Services in San Luis Obispo says that when their caregivers started to experience a shortage of masks, a fellow nurse suggested the start of a grassroots effort to start producing more.

“They are not meant to be a substitute for an N95 respirator, they are just serving as a personal protection barrier for our patients and our caregivers, they are to filter out large droplets,” said Stephanie Thomas, a registered nurse at Wilshire.

Thomas then reached out to a women's group focused on humanitarian efforts at her church.

“Within an hour we had dozens of women, many of them at-risk population, who were willing to make these masks in their homes," Thomas said.

Now, the women are producing cotton masks and being as resourceful as possible for the remaining materials.

Some have resorted to using headbands or ponytails as their elastics.

Thomas said the cotton masks are most effective when they fit tightly around the user and adds that they can be reusable if they are washed and sanitized in a regular washing machine.

Dr. Brian Roberts of Med Stop in San Luis Obispo said that the value of these masks depends not only on how well they are made, but also how they are used.

“When they cough, When they sneeze, they are not throwing that into the air anymore, it's relatively being covered by the mask, that’s why the value is it being worn by a person who is sick to avoid getting others sick," Dr. Roberts said.

According to Dr. Roberts, the homemade masks can also be of use for caregivers such as those who care for the elderly. He urges community members to be mindful that they are not immune to the virus when wearing them.

“I also don’t want people to get a false sense of security that I have this piece of cotton across my face and therefore, I’m superman and can do what I want, go where I want and not worry. Likewise, how you handle these masks with how you clean them, how you to take them on and off, all of this affects it,” Dr. Roberts said.

Wilshire Home Health has provided the following list of Facebook groups that are also producing face masks:

- HelpSLO
- HelpPaso
- HelpFiveCities
- HelpAtascadero
- HelpSantaMaria
- ConnectSLO
- Support Los Osos