Twin Cities hospitals accepting medical masks from hobby seamstresses, but questions about effectiveness remain

Hobby seamstresses make medical masks for hospitals during COVID-19 pandemic.

With a shortage of medical masks across the country due to COVID-19, hobby seamstresses are stepping up to the call for help.

With questions over their effectiveness, however, it could be all for nothing.

Patterns and how-to videos about medical masks are all over the internet and people are stepping up to help.

“I put a little wire at the top so that it will fit around the nose and then you need elastic which is getting hard to find,” said Sharon Caswell, of Prior Lake.

Caswell considers herself a novice sewer, but like many right now, she wanted to do something to help.

“I started reaching out to hospitals last weekend to see if this is something they need,” she said.

Most, if not all the major Twin Cities hospitals, along with nursing homes and other healthcare facilities are taking these donations, prompting the launch of a Facebook group of more than 300 Minnesota seamstresses who are now hard at work.

It’s a group started by a physician’s wife.

“I can imagine many healthcare workers are moved by so many people wanting to help and to contribute and they care and it really shows a sense of community,” said Michelle Guenther, who started the Facebook group.

The CDC says homemade masks should be used as a last resort in the fight against COVID-19 and ideally used in combination with a full facemask.

Minnesota-based 3M says it has doubled its production of N-95 masks in recent months due to the COVID-19 outbreak. But as hospitals wait on orders, the makeshift masks might be what holds them over.

“I’m not sure how exactly, how they’re going to use them, but they are putting out a call for them. For right now, I think just to bridge a gap before the government gets production up to speed,” Guenther said.

Many hospitals have told these volunteers that the masks won’t be used with COVID patients, rather, used as a cover to prolong the use of N-95s or given to greeters and other hospital workers, or possibly even to patients themselves.

Even if hospitals never have to use them, this last resort option is giving community members a way to feel helpful.

“I just think every little part helps,” Guenther added.

Twin Cities hospitals did not respond to FOX 9’s questions about the effectiveness of these homemade masks.