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Central Texas Local News | kcentv.com

Austin group helps deliver thousands of homemade masks to health care workers in need

Through Make-A-Mask Austin, people can drop off homemade, sewn masks to give to doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austinites are making thousands of homemade masks for doctors and nurses until they can get the medical-grade masks they desperately need.

A health professional told KVUE when it comes to getting N95 masks to treat and test coronavirus patients, smaller clinics are even worse off than the hospitals. 

That’s why Jennifer Reyes, the director of clinical operations at Victory Medical in Austin, started a group to help bridge the gap. Reyes said, two weeks ago, her clinic only had two N95 masks left for her team of nearly 200.

“Pretty much everything you see in the media right now regarding the lack of PPE supplies in the health care industry is true, it’s true,” said Reyes. “So as an employer, how do you go to your staff and say, 'I know we’re doing COVID testing, I know that I’m asking you to come in, I know that I can’t protect you, but I need you to come in because our community needs us right now.'”

She said because they’re a small clinic, they didn’t have many medical-grade masks in stock like a hospital would and, when they went to buy more, they were already sold out. So, desperate for help, she went on Facebook and created a page called Make-A-Mask, asking for the community’s support. Her post went viral. She told KVUE that Girl Scout troops, churches, sewing groups, you name it, came together and started sowing masks for them and other health care workers in the area.

She said the homemade masks are a temporary fix that could really help until the medical-grade masks from the government arrive.

“While we have hundreds and hundreds of [homemade] masks coming in every day, the demand for the masks far outweighs what we could ever supply,” said Reyes. “I can say, right now, I have 32 clinics on my list for health care workers for a total of 6,000 masks that are still being requested.”

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She’s not only helping her clinic but first responders and major hospital chains in the area too. So far, Reyes said through her group the community has helped provide 6,500 sown masks to 85 health care facilities.

“It allows our health care workers to come to work and feel that sense of protection where, before, they felt completely exposed,” said Reyes. “When you go into health care, it’s because you want to help people but, when you go into the environment now and you don’t feel protected and then you’re going home to your families, potentially exposing your kids, your husband and your wife, it’s a very scary feeling.”

Hospitals and clinics can just fill out a form online and request how many masks they need, the status of their personal protective equipment (PPE), and how many face shields needed as well.

There are several drop-off locations in Austin, such as Honey Bee Quilt Store in North Austin, where people can donate masks.

Those who would like to get involved or are in need of help can head to the Make-A-Mask website or Facebook page to sign up.

WATCH: How to make your own face mask

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