While on quarantine it’s easy to forget what day of the week it is – it’s Sunday! We’re moving very, very quickly and aggressively to begin local production runs of face masks and hospital gowns for use by Rochester General Hospital (RGH) and other hospitals in the area. The hospital tells us they go through 10-15,000 face masks a day! This is what we’ve been doing, what we are currently working on, and what will need to be done next…
What’s happened so far
Day 1 – Thursday, March 19, 2020 – The Initial Request
RGH reached out to R. Jeffery Diduch, a senior executive at a local manufacturing facility that had been closed due to state quarantine restrictions, to see what, if anything, could be done to produce or procure more face masks and hospital gowns. Samples are provided for research.
Day 2 – Friday, March 20, 2020 – Work From Home network created
The idea of forming a network of home sewers using their own sewing machines was floated and, while on the air with Bob Lonsberry (WHAM 1180) a new dedicated email address and website were put together and the call to action was announced. The call to action went viral and over 7,000 people have offered to help our efforts.
We’re overwhelmed by the response and extremely grateful! Please, rest assured your information has been received and is secure. Unfortunately, due to the huge amount, it’s taking a long time to transcribe and organize the information. Fortunately, while people are eager to act immediately, we do have some ramp up time and an organizing framework to establish first.
Prototypes and Testing
Initial prototypes were inspected and tested by RGH officials. Brainstorming alternative sources of the increasingly rare and now highly sought after hospital grade materials kicked up boxes of unused operating room drapes, curtains, and even table covers that could be cut up and sewn into mask components. The idea is to make as quality a product as possible with what we have or can get. Furthermore, we want to standardize the sewing so it can be fast and simple, yet effective.
Sanitation and sterilization are other obvious concerns when considering the sewing with a home network so another chief requirement is the new face masks can be cleaned and sterilized prior to use in the hospital, removing that prohibitive burden from the manufacturers. It could possibly even allow the masks to be reused, if they’re washable.
Materials Sourcing and Procurement
We’ve written some purchase orders for key components like the elastic ties and that shipment is currently en route to our headquarters. Other components, namely the wire used in the nose bridge, have been harder to find in sufficient quantities. Thanks to the viral nature of the movement, we’ve been put in contact with an executive of a major retail chain who directed the dispatch of whatever remaining inventory they had in their warehouses and distribution centers to us, possibly even as a donation.
Conference calls with the heads of America’s few remaining clothing factories have taken place to share information, materials sourcing leads, and patterns in an effort to streamline and speed up work by removing duplication of effort across the nation.
Day 3 – Saturday, March 21, 2020 – Essential Personnel
Word of our Work From Home project reached New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office and they decided to re-activate factories across the state by declaring them “essential personnel” in the effort to manufacture face masks and hospital gowns for medical personnel.
The final prototypes were delivered to RGH for testing and evaluation. Criteria include fit, usability, capability to be sterilized in house, and functionality. Approval of the final design and pattern is expected Sunday.
What’s happening next
Attention is now being turned to hospital gowns and other personal protective equipment (PPE) garments like hair nets and booties – supplies of those are dwindling, too.
An initial run of our new masks will be made so the factory workers and delivery personnel will have something to wear when they go back to work. This is also the time to develop and document the assembly process so that we can train our Work From Home network.
Pieces continue to come together behind the scenes, too. Soon, we will be reaching out to activate those who have offered to help. While we want to move swiftly, we can’t be haphazard, so we’re doing our due diligence and getting the ultimate users, the hospital personnel, to sign off and approve everything.
The logistics of the supply chain and organization of the Work From Home sewing network is very complicated and the RGH volunteer coordinators will be assisting us.
We’re thrilled to be working with people here in Rochester and a growing number across America. Our project is going viral to stop the virus! Thank you for being a part of it! <3