Triangle crafters mobilize to fill COVID-19 personal protective equipment supply gap

All over the country and certainly here in North Carolina home crafters have mobilized to try and fill the supply gaps in basic protective gear for our healthcare workers during COVID-19.

Rachel Offerdahl was early to help, sewing masks at home.

"It frustrates me that this is necessary that we don't have the supplies and materials already. I think it just points to a failure of the government."

Offerdahl, who lives in Durham, was affected early on by the coronavirus. Laid off in early March from her job at a yarn store, she's using her time at home now to make mask-wearing accessories.

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"My friend Jen, who is a nurse, let me know that nurses and doctors were now wearing masks their whole shift, so the skin behind their ears was getting irritated and said that some headbands with buttons on them would be helpful," she said.

Christian Lawson, the Director of Emergency Services for UNC hospitals has watched the handiwork of people like Rachel pour in.

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"I believe we counted over 500,000 donated items within UNC Health, and we are very appreciative of all those items."

It turns out wearing a mask all day starts to hurt, so people are coming up with on the fly solutions at home. My wife Mae, who's usually making custom home decor is now using her laser cutting machine to make clasps that remove the need to strap elastic masks over the ears.

"I'm in a craft group for Glowforge, and some of the people were making them, and I figured I can design one myself and try to use whatever materials I have at home."

Since offering them up for free on social media yesterday, Mae has received requests for over 1000 of them from all manner of healthcare professionals. It's been an emotional experience. One member of the critical care transport team at WakeMed left a note after picking up some of the clasps.

It read in part "Things are really weird right now. It feels good to know people are rooting for us, and trying to help. I wanted to write a good note but I couldn't compose my thoughts."

Lawson encourages the community outpouring "We really appreciate everyone using their creativity and where one day you're making a particular item to sell on Etsy or some other platform and now you're helping the healthcare workers ease the pain and their job."
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