Most frequent questions and answers

This group formed spontaneously in response to requests from frontline workers who were confidentially asking for home-made masks to be provided.  Frontline workers who have expressed interest in home-made Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) include nurses, midwives, workers in the Downtown Eastside (DTES), and care-aids.  Since the formation of this group, frontline workers have also made public requests for these items. This group is also making scrubs, isolation gowns, laundry bags, ear-savers for masks, scrub caps and 3D printed items.

To connect those willing to provide resources to those requesting them. The intent behind this group is not to provide advice on the type of PPE appropriate for healthcare settings. The assumption is that people choosing to make or use these masks will make their own informed decisions and follow best practices for safety.  The group also strives to direct resources to areas that need them most in order to slow the spread of COVID.  To that end, we prioritize distribution of PPE based on public health guidelines for distribution.

The Government of Canada has changed its recommendations for use of cloth masks for the general public and as of April 19th has provided guidelines for how to sew and use cloth masks properly. It is still unclear to what extent homemade masks may or may not be useful in care settings if the supply issue worsens.  As far as we know, the government has indicated that they have the supply of surgical and N95 masks for hospitals under control.  As this situation progresses we hope there will be more clarity as to what situations these masks could be useful in, as well as, the best way to produce them. The highest demand for these masks in our group thus far seems to be coming from DTES workers, midwives, nursing homes,  other frontline workers (i.e. pharmacists) and households with immunocompromised individuals.  

Firstly, we want to emphasize that the best way to prevent the spread of COVID is to physically distance yourself from others, wash your hands, and stop touching your face.  Ideally, if people adhere to these preventive measures, the spread of COVID will slow and the demand for masks won’t outpace the supply. 

That said, the mantra for the group is essentially #betterthannothing with the hope that these masks at no point are needed in a hospital setting and that they may be of use right now to those who can’t get regulatory approved masks because they are being prioritized for those who need them most. 

We have tried to make clear that individuals will make their own informed decisions about the production and use of these masks and we assume healthcare workers understand their own needs better than we do. In the meantime, cloth masks provide an alternative for the general public to use and can be useful in some healthcare environments where regulatory approved PPE is not available.

On that note, If you know of anyone who is in possession of  N95 masks or standard surgical masks please encourage them to donate these to hospitals through the appropriate channels and choose instead to use cloth masks for home use if they are experiencing symptoms and concerned about spreading to others.  Please see https://maskaherobc.ca/ppe-for-hospitals for information regarding points of contact for donating PPE.

If you are looking for a pattern, please check the patterns section of our website.  Our Facebook group is also full of members with sewing expertise that would be happy to help you!

Cotton blend has been shown to be a good alternative for breathability and protection – again it’s no replacement for medical grade materials – So far, the hospitals we have seen that are directly asking for masks have asked for cotton.

We have a prioritization system in place which is informed by public health guidance regarding the prioritization of PPE distribution. Having a prioritization system in place allows us to direct resources where they have the most potential to be effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19.