YORK — Protective masks for health care workers are scarce, but the sewing community has come up with a way that could possibly ease the problem – all it takes is some scrap fabric and a few notions.

Jenny Obermier, COO/Chief Nursing Officer at York General and an avid sewer herself, brought the idea to the area quilting and sewing community. In turn, Amy Holthus and Becki Mertens of The Quilt Basket in York have made the local business one of the area leaders in promoting, making and collecting covers for the coveted medical masks. The specially-constructed covers extend the life of the medical masks beneath, as long as the cover is washed between uses.

The mask going over the medical mask has specific elements to make it effective. Once those elements are complete, it is safe to protect the medical mask beneath.

It sounds complicated, but it isn’t, Holthus and Mertens said. The materials cost little-to-nothing – “It takes about 30 cents worth of elastic,” Mertens said. Even twist-ties can be utilized. The fabric can consist of scraps a sewer might have laying around, or, if they choose, purchased fabric. “People have just been really generous using their own material,” Holthus said.

The pattern is available at The Quilt Basket, and a link to a YouTube video with instructions is available in the local business’s newsletter. Holthus and Mertens said that they can also offer guidance in person, too. “We’d be happy to walk them through it,” Hothus said. When the pattern is familiar, the project can move quickly, Mertens said. “It’s probably a half-hour’s time once you get going.”

The masks are then distributed to healthcare organizations. “Our friends from Omaha and Lincoln have been making some for their hospitals,” Holthus said.

Another mask pattern is available for those with weakened immune systems and other conditions that make them susceptible to COVID-19 infection, as well as people who interact with the public on a regular basis.

“We had a staff member make some for our postal worker, and our UPS and FedEx delivery drivers,” Holthus said.

With a little time, a bit of fabric, thread and a few other extras, area sewers are doing their part to keep the community safe.

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