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Port Perry Sews: making masks for the frontline and the public

COURTNEY McCLURE The Standard Intern

SCUGOG: During the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare workers need basic procedure masks to protect themselves and their patients. Debbie Ward, a resident of Port Perry, says she came up with the idea to make masks for frontline workers after speaking to the family member of a doctor. “I was on Facebook with Bronwen Tuck, Doctor Tuck’s wife… they were away in Portugal [at the time], but her sister is [a] nurse in Kingston,” said Ms. Ward. “[Bronwen’s sister] posted the need for masks showed how they [the masks] are being sewn and included a pattern.” Afterward, Debbie messaged Mrs. Tuck’s sister and expressed her interest to help frontline workers to have enough masks. Ward said she made about 50 masks that week for healthcare workers in Kingston. Ms. Ward took to Facebook and made her own post, telling her followers about the need for masks. She said Stephanie Knutson created the official group on Facebook, now known as Port Perry Sews. In the File section of the group’s page, there are PDF files with multiple patterns of how the masks can be sewn. “It just took off like wildfire,” said Debbie, referring to the group after it was created, on the popular social media platform. The group makes regular masks, like ones that wrap around the wearer’s ears. They also make headband masks, as they call them. They are masks, but instead of fastening around the person’s ears, buttons are sewn onto either sides of a headband, and the buttons secure the string. According to Stephanie, who updates the groups statistics, the group has made 596 masks as of April 6th. Port Perry Sews has not only been supporting healthcare workers and hospital facilities, they are also making masks for long-term care homes and many residents from Port Perry and surrounding areas of Durham Region. Many of the members do not have to worry about stores not being open, because they have their own supplies to make their products. “Many of us that jumped on board are sewers or quilters,” she shared. “I sew for a living. I had an endless stash. I still have it, there’s hardly a dent out of it.” However many of the members were running low on elastics but they came up with a solution. Mrs. Tuck also has an interest in quilting. When she returned from Portugal, Ward explained how she came up with the idea of using t-shirt strips. “Once you cut them [the shirt] only an inch wide, and you pull them, they become a soft, stretchy string,” she said. So, the group starting using t-shirt strips in place of elastics to secure the masks around people’s ears. According to Debbie, they are creating standard masks that are secured around the wearer’s ear for the general public and healthcare staff who cannot buy any because of no or low supply. She explained they are trying to perfect a mask doctors and surgeons can use to wear over their N95 masks. Since N95’s masks are in such high demand, people are trying to make them last longer. This is one way. The mask can cover the N95 mask and be washed or sterilized after each patient. Port Perry Sews is not charging for the masks they are making. Similar groups have set up around other regions in Ontario, and in other provinces and territories.

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