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news News Thursday, April 16, 2020 Wednesday, April 15, 2020 6:00 PM - Wednesday, April 15, 2020 6:00 PM

Facing mask shortages

Social worker at Shriners Hospital leads mask-making project to help cover non-clinical staff, visitors

Facing mask shortages

Naturally wired to want to help people, a social worker at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City, Margaret Pedicini, LCSW, ACM-SW, is using the extra time on her hands for good. Patient volumes have decreased at the pediatric orthopaedic hospital in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, freeing her up to fulfill a huge need at the hospital: sewing home-made cloth face coverings. 

“Social work is a naturally ‘others focused’ and intentionally helpful profession,” said Margaret. “I like to keep busy and since I have a lot of friends in residencies spread out across the country in various hospitals on the front lines, I decided to start making masks.”

She has joined the ranks of people all around the world responding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation to wear cloth face coverings in public settings. The guideline is a response to a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus showing no symptoms. Even those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before symptoms are present. This has led to unprecedented demand for home-made cloth face coverings, and the CDC has issued guidelines on how to properly wear, wash, remove and sew them.

Medical facilities, including Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City, have a vested interested in securing an ample supply of home-made cloth face coverings. Cloth masks help protect non-clinical staff members entering the facility, including patients, their parent or caregiver, and non-clinical staff members who work in non-patient care areas of the hospital.

Every individual entering the Salt Lake City Shriners Hospital must wear a face covering. If an individual does not have a personal face-covering, one of the hospital’s front entrance screeners will provide one. Screening also ensures that no one entering the hospital has symptoms or has a known COVID-19 exposure. Donated masks from generous people like Margaret are essential during this time to help meet the demand and preserve clinical-grade masks for patient care staff who come in close proximity to patients.

Margaret’s diligent efforts have produced more than 500 home-made masks, with 100 donated to the Shriners Hospital in Salt Lake City. The rest were shipped out to friends, family and personal contacts in 15 different states. Some of her friends are front-line health care workers who are using the fabric masks for personal use, or to cover their clinical-grade mask as an extra layer of protection, possibly extending its life.

Her efforts have grown from a nice idea to a huge undertaking, complete with a name – Margaret’s Mask Project – and even a logo. She has developed methods for sourcing materials since her own scrap fabric ran out. Free fabric is now coming her way from her favorite quilt shop, Quilt Etc. She receives donations via a mobile payment service to buy materials that cannot be donated, including thread, needles and replacement blades for fabric cutters.

Members of the public are urged to follow her lead, and help make cloth face coverings for the hospital’s visitors and non-clinical staff. These donated home-made cloth face coverings will be used by non-clinical staff in the facility (such as administrative and office staff) and by parents and caregivers of patients. The hospital staff will properly launder donated home-made cloth face coverings before distribution; however, all materials used in making the mask must be new and not recycled. The hospital requires latex-free elastic or fabric ties, and we ask those donating to pre-wash the fabric so the masks do not shrink when laundered.

Hospital screeners located at the front entrance will provide recipients with some education on how to properly wear, clean and store home-made cloth face coverings.

To coordinate in-kind donations and delivery of home-made cloth face coverings, please call or email Nancy Wiscomb, 801-536-3632. Once approved, in-kind donations of cloth face coverings will be accepted by appointment (preferred) or they may be mailed to the hospital. It is also acceptable for people to drop them off at the front door of the hospital, where screeners will ensure they are latex-free and will have them taken directly to the hospital laundry. If a donor drops them off at the front entrance, please email Nancy Wiscomb to process the donation in our system so the hospital can properly recognize their in-kind donation.

Currently these are the only in-kind donations accepted at the hospital. Other in-kind donations, like new toys, blankets and other items have been suspended for the time being.

Requiring face coverings in the hospital is one of the many ways the hospital has adapted to COVID-19, summarized in a regularly-updated brief: COVID-19: What to expect at the Salt Lake City Shriners Hospital.

May we all follow Margaret’s example during these challenging times. In her own words, she is trying to “spread as much light and joy as possible, at a time when you never know who just might need a pick-me-up.”

Margaret's mask project logo