Jayme Clark stood in the parking lot outside her job at Hartford HealthCare’s Go Health Urgent Care in Cheshire Tuesday. She’ wore an N95 mask and held a handmade fabric one in her hand.
“What we would do is place this over our masks and we can tighten them ourselves,” said Clark, a physician’s assistant at GoHealth Urgent Care.
She says this may be the best way to preserve the precious few N95 masks they have available right now.
“The cloth masks are easily washed which is nice so we can at least keep those clean and it really extends the life of our N95s,” she explained.
They’re trying to reuse the masks that are only supposed to be worn once. They have enough for now at Go Health, but – like many health professionals – she’s thinking about what’s ahead.
“We’re facing a shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment) which includes masks, gloves, eye protection, facemasks, etc.,” she said.
It’s a nationwide problem. On Tuesday, Hartford HealthCare Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Ajay Kumar discussed the shortage, saying part of the problem is getting supplies from overseas.
“The production is not up to speed and that is creating delays as well,” said Kumar.
Connecticut’s U.S. House and Senate members signed a letter March 19 requesting 250,000 masks and other supplies from the government’s National Strategic Stockpile. But even that ask could be cut short, so donations are welcomed.
“I can pretty much pick up any of the items, they’re all in short supply,” said Kumar.
United Steel CEO Keith Corneau heard the call for donations and loaded a car with cases of N95 masks Tuesday afternoon.
“We decided that we wanted to donate them to our healthcare workers, obviously knowing they are in a much more difficult position than we are,” said Corneau.
His company uses the masks for welding and tells NBC Connecticut he’s working on getting more.
“It’s certainly a tough environment for everyone, everyone is under a lot of stress, so we wanted to take a little of that away and allow our healthcare workers to do their jobs,” said Corneau.
Jayme is coordinating donations to of N95 and surgical masks too. The handmade ones were made by a group of friends and volunteers in Hamden, and will go to workers across Connecticut.
“It’s just for anybody in healthcare that’s worried about not having any appropriate PPE we want to be able to supply something to you,” said Clark.
“To know that people are thinking of us it really means a lot,” said Clark.