In recent weeks, the need for medical masks has increased exponentially. Nurses and doctors have pleaded for donations on social media, where they’ve detailed how physicians have been forced to reuse the valuable face covers.
But thanks to hundreds of people across the country, including some right here in Santa Monica, hospitals everywhere are receiving the necessary supplies that will allow them to help the most critical of patients.
For two weeks, Kristen Held has traveled up and down the streets of the Westside in search of hardware stores and good Samaritans who may be in possession of N-95 masks and other supplies that may be helpful to hospitals during the recent pandemic.
“I just finished dropping off a sewing machine to this lady up the street because she wanted to get involved as well,” Held said in an interview Wednesday.
She said it was part of “Maskapolooza,” a group of more than 600 people across the country who have connected online and become involved in the fight against COVID-19.
“I saw some healthcare workers at the very beginning of this were using their masks for (as long as) five days in a row, because that’s all they had to protect themselves,” Patricia Peppard said. “I went on my Facebook feed and I wrote exactly that and said I heard that hospitals are accepting homemade masks since there’s a shortage throughout the country right now. But I was unsure so I was hoping someone would inform me.”
Within minutes, Peppard connected with a friend of a friend — Christina Karaba — who was searching for people who are costume designers and stylists in Los Angeles who sew. Their conversation eventually led to Peppard joining Maskapolooza.
“Christina is finding the contacts for the hospitals in need and then she’s posting that on the Maskapolooza page and then everyone within those areas are making mask covers using a design that was made by a nurse,” Peppard said. Created by a nurse for nurses, the cotton covers that extend the life of an N-95 mask because doctors and nurses can bleach and wash them.
Peppard compares Maskapolooza’s efforts to her day-job where, on big jobs, a team will be sewing, buying fabric and designing throughout the project. “This is still working as a team, it’s just we’re all working together through Facebook Messenger and NextDoor,” Peppard added.
However, creating the covers as well as having to care for children and complete all of life’s other responsibilities can be taxing, especially considering it takes experienced sewers hours to complete a single face mask.
“But seeing all of the people asking for them… that motivates you to get busy again and just continue to make more,” Peppard said, sharing she has produced more than 80 mask covers and Held has purchased or collected more than 2,000 N-95 masks for St John’s Hospital from Next Door neighbors and businesses since last week.
Though she is one of many Americans who is dealing with the consequences of the recent pandemic, Held said she feels it’s important to come together as a community right now.
“I’ll do anything to help,” Held said as she described the efforts of her neighbors. So when a Culver City hardware store asked her to get the head of the hospital’s signature to prove she wasn’t selling the masks online, Held had no problem with the request and soon returned to collect the merchandise.
And she hasn’t stopped there. Whether it’s fabric pick-ups, sewing machine drop-offs or looking for businesses who are willing to donate fabric and other supplies, Held is busy throughout the day doing what she can to make sure hospitals are prepared.
“Everyone is doing their part in their own way, and I think that’s how we’ll get through this,” Peppard said, adding anybody who is interested in joining the effort can request to do so online at bit.ly/Maskapolooza.