Van Wert Health Community Wellness Coordinator Anne Dunn receives donated sewn masks for Van Wert Health to use. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Van Wert Health Community Wellness Coordinator Anne Dunn receives donated sewn masks for Van Wert Health to use. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – On Monday, citizens in the community were able to donate hand-sewn cloth masks for Van Wert Health to use. The cloth masks will be used in various ways while the nation is facing a shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment) during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Van Wert Health Community Wellness Coordinator Anne Dunn, the masks will be utilized in two ways, one of which is for patients.

“We will use these for our patients that come in here that have a cough but are not screened,” said Dunn noting that those who utilize services such as therapy and lab testing in the Medical Arts Building aren’t being screened like those entering the hospital. “Maybe they are also coming in as a potential COVID case. We are using those masks to give to those patients at the time of screening so that they have them to take home and to wash and reuse. We’re also giving them to our high-risk patients.”

The donated masks are also being used for Van Wert Health’s healthcare workers to help them add life to their N95 masks. While the nurses and doctors can’t wear the cloth masks alone for protection, they can wear them over their N95 masks for added preservation.

N95 masks are special in the fact that they filter out germs so that bacteria can’t be breathed in or out of the masks. While the cloth masks don’t necessarily do that, they do add a level of protection.

“It works as an added barrier,” said Dunn. “It helps minimize the amount of germs that go into the air when someone sneezes or coughs. It’s not a perfect solution, but any barrier that we can come up with is better than nothing.”

Many people around the community have been making masks to donate. Originally, Van Wert Health was using the “sewing ladies” of the Lady Board of Managers volunteer group.

“We had a large group of them that were sewing in their homes, but as the need has increased, we’ve had more people reach out and offer to do it and drop off masks,” said Dunn. “We know there is an increased need as time continues to go on and we’re just trying to ramp up what we have available to us.”

Monday’s drop-off time was likely the first of many, said Dunn. However, those who make masks and can’t deliver them during a drop-off time can drop them off in a special container just inside the hospital’s main entrance.

A mask design for the cloth masks can be found on Cotton cloth and non-latex bands are suggested. Dunn encouraged those who want to donate but are unable to deliver the masks to call Van Wert Health at 419-238-2390 and leave her a message.

“We appreciate everyone coming together,” said Dunn who thanked all those willing to help.