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Quilters make masks for hospitals

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Submitted Photo A group of local quilters is donating its time to sew masks like these for local clinics.

Members of the Pecos Valley Quilters and other crafters have put aside their usual projects to help keep Chaves County medical clinics stocked with masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group sewed and donated 100 masks last week and are still busy providing more, Guild president Carol Ann Moorehead said Monday afternoon.

She delivered 50 Monday morning from members in her Enchanted Hills neighborhood to another guild member, Carolyn Mitchell, who is coordinating the delivery efforts.

The masks being made are mostly being used by clinics to give to patients who are sick, but could also be used in case of a local shortage, said Willis Scharmer, chief operating officer of Rio Pecos Medical Associates, 305 W. Country Club Road.

“The protection is mainly for the folks that are sick, so we’re providing them to our patients as they need,” Scharmer said.

He is coordinating the distribution of the masks to other clinics in Roswell as well as his own.

Hospitals are being supplied with masks from the Department of Health and their normal suppliers, Scharmer said, but clinics might be finding orders hard to fill now.

“Some of the clinics around town don’t normally order those kinds of masks because they don’t need them. They way things are happening, if you haven’t ordered masks before, there’s no allocation for you,” he said.

In addition, masks and other supplies are being shipped to areas where COVID-19 has hit hardest, he said.

The project with the quilters guild began when Scharmer and Mitchell were working on another project in their Rotary Club, and he asked if the group would be able to help.

Members of the guild, which normally meets 9 a.m to 3 p.m. Wednesdays in room 22 of the Roswell Adult and Recreation Center, 807 N. Missouri, are working on the masks from home since the center is closed.

“I put out an email every Monday,” Moorehead said. “I sent out a site they could go to to watch a tutorial and got them the pattern.”

Community service is not unusual for the quilters guild, as one meeting each month is dedicated to such projects.

“We call it Quilters for the Heart. That’s where we do our quilts that are charity quilts and anything else the community asks us to do,” Moorehead said.

They have made quilts for children served by Court Appointed Special Advocates and the Assurance Home, which cares for homeless children or those at risk of being homeless.

The effort is moving beyond the quilting group as well.

“It’s expanding into more of a community thing, but the majority by far are quilters,” Mitchell said.

Krisann Robles, owner of Sew Easy Sewing, 200 E. College Blvd., is also coordinating volunteers and donations.

She said businesses such as Captain Jim’s, 108 W. Eighth, and Richburg Electric, 1206 N. Grand Avenue, donated masks to be used by personnel with Superior Ambulance.

“They have 45 people and they don’t have enough to go around,” Robles said.

Volunteers have also been connecting through the Facebook group Roswell, NM Resources to make and distribute masks, Robles said.

Those making the masks are frequently using their own stashes of fabric for the masks, Mitchell said, but she and Robles said many are running out of elastic for the straps.

Mitchell said she had gotten a call from a woman who was no longer able to quilt who is donating her supply of elastic, but retail outlets no longer have it.

“We’re out of elastic and the big stores are out of elastic, and Amazon and other companies are not shipping. It’s not a priority item,” Robles said.

“Pretty much everybody is out of elastic, so they’re having to come up with alternatives,” Robles said. “Most of them are using fabric ties, which take a little longer to make. They are a little more complicated than just sewing on elastic.”

The Centers for Disease Control says on its website the capability of homemade masks to protect against COVID-19 is not known and recommends health care professionals use them only as a last resort in combination with a face shield.

An English researcher, Anna Davies of the University of Cambridge, published instructions online for making homemade masks but advised it will offer only limited protection.

The best prevention, she wrote, is avoiding contact with people who are sick, covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and washing hands frequently.

Rio Pecos’ Scharmer added not touching the face is also an important part of prevention.

“The big thing is to wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap, thoroughly. Then do not touch your face,” he said.

“Even if you have a mask on, as soon as you touch your face, the mask is no good,” he said.

“If you can do those two things — not touch your face and keep your hands clean, your chances (of contracting the disease) go down considerably,” he said.