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With healthcare workers short on supplies, community members get to work making more

Avondale Estates Business COVID-19 Decatur Food Kirkwood Metro ATL Tucker

With healthcare workers short on supplies, community members get to work making more

Members of the Sewing Masks for Atlanta Hospitals Facebook group hold a Zoom meeting to coordinate their efforts. Top left to right: Gina Livingston, organizer; Nikki Griffin, Atlanta Sewing Style; Kari Fisher, Topstitch Studio. Bottom Left to Right: Kayla Hittig, Organizer; Michelle Hardeman, Social Media; Kirsten Hawkins, Volunteer Manager. Image provided to Decaturish
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Atlanta, GA – The coronavirus pandemic has caused more than 50 deaths in Georgia and the worst of it is on the way.

Patients swarming the hospitals are quickly depleting supplies of personal protective equipment, like facemasks.

One expert told Georgia Health News that there is a “very limited supply, and major vendors [are] already letting us know supplies will be limited.’’

Gina Livingston is friends with a doctor at Grady Memorial Hospital. All of the hospital’s ICU beds are full.

“She’s a friend of mine,” Livingston said. “She said, ‘Can you sew me a couple of prototypes of a mask?’ I reached out to some friends and she said, ‘Can we get a bunch of these done?’ and we did. I’ve been asked by friends to make these masks, too. I started a small page and quickly found other women and we combined forces to make this one page.”

Livingston, working with Kayla Hittig and Kirsten Hawkins, created the Sewing Masks for Atlanta Hospitals Facebook group. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta referred Decaturish to this group when contacted for this article. The group has members from all over the state.

Emory Healthcare recently confirmed that it is also accepting donations of masks and other personal protective equipment.

The Sewing Masks for Atlanta Hospitals group has completed nearly 400 masks, with more on the way. They’ve delivered them to Gwinnett Medical Center and other hospitals. The masks will be going to Grady soon.

Livingston and other group members acknowledge that the homemade masks might not be as ideal as the real thing, but at this point, they are better than the alternative.

“From what I understand, and this is from a bunch of different people we’ve been talking to, there is no replacement we can make at home for the N95 style masks, which is what these doctors and nurses and hospital staff need,” she said. “We’re trying to provide some stop-gap coverage. Some coverage is better than no coverage at all.”

Zach Griggs, who owns Platform Product Design in Avondale Estates, had his own idea about how to help.

“We have 3D printers and other techniques we use for rapidly producing a physical object,” Griggs said. “A neighbor sent me an article from this company in Montana. They teamed up with a dentist and a designer and they came up with this mask design. I thought it was the coolest thing. They shared the files publicly.”

It has a filter that can be replaced as needed.

“The general idea at first was that you could cut up surgical masks,” Griggs said. “You could take one surgical mask that hospitals have in supply and you can cut it up into six pieces. While you’re destroying one perfectly good mask, you’re getting six replacements.”

Zach Griggs created this mask using a 3D printer. It has a replaceable filter.

He said hospitals have been slow to embrace the movement because there’s red tape involved.

“They don’t want people throwing stuff out there suggesting it’s helpful or safe or preventative when it hasn’t been tested,” Griggs said. “There’s a slow response from the hospitals to sort of say, ‘Yes, please make this because this is going to work for us.”

But, like Livingston, Griggs thinks these crowd-sourced solutions are better than doing nothing. He’s heard it referred to as a “wartime solution.”

“Real masks should always be prioritized and used first, so this is a last line of defense,” Griggs said.

Local hospitals have come around to the effort. Emory Healthcare has posted patterns for the masks on its website along with information about dropoff locations.

“As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Georgia, Emory Healthcare has launched a drive-through donation site as part of a larger effort to address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies that are critical for front-line health care workers tackling the virus,” an Emory spokesperson said. “The donation site is located at 1599 Clifton Rd., Atlanta, GA, 30322, near the Emory Conference Center and Emory Pointe Shopping Center. Drop-off is at the rear of the building.”

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In addition to providing the link to the Facebook group, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta provided other ideas for people interested in helping.

“We anticipate that Children’s will submit mask-making requests through [the Sewing Masks for Atlanta Hospitals Facebook group] when our needs are clearly defined in the coming days,” a spokesperson for CHOA said. “Our supply chain team at Children’s has been working around the clock to keep us supplied, and we are focused on conservation across our system. However, we always welcome assistance from anyone in the community who may have the ability to help us obtain any masks, protective gowns, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and touchless thermometers. If you’re interested in donating these products, please reach out to Dave.Piotter@choa.org.

“Additionally, financial contributions at give.choa.org are always welcome and will help support areas at Children’s with the greatest need. Please note, at this time we are not accepting physical greeting cards, food – unless pre-approved and coordinated by the Children’s Volunteer Services team at the hospitals – or flower donations. We truly appreciate the generosity and continued support of the community during this time.”

Gov. Brian Kemp’s Office also has provided a list of ways people can get involved with the coronavirus response effort.

“The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is receiving offers from medical professionals and other individuals looking for ways to help with the COVID-19 response,” the Governor’s Office said. “An effective response relies on volunteers who are pre-credentialed and organized. Georgia Responds is Georgia’s health and medical volunteer program which matches the skills and credentials of medical and non-medical volunteers to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Georgia.”

Medical volunteers could be used to answer questions coming into the COVID-19 hotline or assist at testing sites. Non-medical volunteers are used in administrative roles at the call center or the testing sites. They may also provide interpretation services or other necessary skills.

“To volunteer, log on to https://dph.georgia.gov/georgia-responds and click on the ‘Register Now’ box,” the Governor’s Office said. “Registration only takes a few minutes. Prospective volunteers will be asked for their name, address, contact information, and occupation type. In order to be eligible for some assignments, responders are encouraged to complete a profile summary, which includes skills and certifications, training, medical history, emergency contact, and deployment preferences. Once your skills and credentials are reviewed, you will be notified by a DPH representative.”

Gov. Kemp also has called on Georgia businesses to step up to produce personal protective equipment and other supplies.

Critical items the state needs include:

– N-95 masks or equivalent

– Air purifying machines

– Face shields

– Hair covers

– Hand sanitizer

– Hospital beds

– Gloves (various sizes – nitrile or latex-free)

– Negative pressure machines

– No-touch thermometers (regular if no-touch are not available)

– Safety goggles

– Sanitation units

– Sanitizing spray

– Sanitizing wipes

– Shoe covers

– Surgical masks

– Tyvek suits

– Ventilators

“Businesses able to provide assistance and resources with factories already up and running, or facilities that can be repurposed for these vital products, are asked to complete an informational form online here,” the Governor’s Office said. “This is simply for the purpose of collecting information. Submission of the form will not equate to a commitment by the state of Georgia to purchase.”

Livingston said she’d hopes more help from the government is on the way.

“We’ve been trying really hard not to make this a political thing, but you want to hear from somebody at a higher pay grade that yeah the N95s are coming,” she said. “In the meantime, we’ll keep making them.”

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