Local sewing-hobbyists have made hundreds of fabric masks to be donated to various community groups and agencies, including area hospitals.
However, medical professionals say while they appreciate the generosity from the community, cloth masks can be better used by the general public.
Local, state and federal public health officials have advised everyone to wear a facial covering when in public.
With stories of strained personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies at hospitals in COVID-19 hotspots like New York, sewing cloth masks has become a popular way to support frontline workers.
Patricia Jaurez of Paso Robles started Masks for our Emergency Service SLO County, a Facebook group and initiative that helps collect and distribute homemade cloth masks to local healthcare workers and first responders.
So far, Jaurez has collected and helped donated over 1,000 cloth masks. She says all the masks are sanitized before being donated.
“I wash them in hot water, dry them in the dryer and then I wear gloves and a mask to bag them into a Ziploc bag,” Jaurez said.
Central Coast hospital officials say they do have enough medical-grade masks and PPE supplies, adding that they are following strict CDC guidelines that say homemade masks should not be used in a clinical setting "until no other options are available."
Dr. Cinnamon Redd with Tenet Health Central Coast says while a fabric mask isn't enough to protect a healthcare worker like herself, it is appropriate for your everyday errands.
"Certainly, [cloth masks] don't filter out as much as a medical grade surgical mask however, for the needs of the community with social distancing in a grocery store, with minimal contact, I think that that is enough protection at this point for the general community," Dr. Redd told KSBY.
Dr. Redd also suggests washing fabric masks at least daily.
Local healthcare workers who have received the homemade masks say they are extremely grateful to be able to wear them whenever they leave the hospital and call them their "outdoor masks."
Tenet Health Central Central issued the following statement to KSBY regarding donated, homemade masks:
"We have had so many offers from the community to help with mask shortages. Thank you to everyone who has offered to make homemade masks for our caregivers. We are grateful and humbled to see the community's readiness to support those on the frontlines of this Pandemic. In order to protect patients, staff and the community, we are investigating the efficacy of using homemade masks in the hospital setting. When there is guidance from the CDC, we will reach out to the community with instructions on how these should be made to best protect patients and caregivers. Again, thank you."
Dignity Health Central Coast gave KSBY the following statement on cloth masks:
"Dignity Health hospitals do accept donated cloth masks. However, under current guidance from the CDC, cloth masks are not to be used as personal protective equipment (PPE) in patient care areas. Employees working in non-clinical areas (such as business offices) may wear cloth masks for enhanced source control, which can conserve limited PPE. The CDC also encourages everyone to use cloth masks in public settings where other social distancing methods are difficult to maintain."