Barb Bork consulted with daughter-in-law Annie Bork, who uses masks at Southwestern Mental Health Center, and they've arrived at one that's comfortable and relatively protective.

Community sews homemade masks

With increasing numbers of coronavirus cases confirmed in the region, homemade fabric masks are becoming increasingly common in grocery stores and other places of essential business.

     Barb Bork of the Sewing Basket in Luverne has been helping to meet demand for fabric and supplies while also accepting mask donations to redistribute where needed.
     “When this started, we didn’t have a spool of white thread in the store. It was like bread and toilet paper. I couldn’t believe it,” Bork said Monday after trying to keep her store stocked with sewing supplies for masks.      “We were out of elastic in the first half hour after the governor announced sheltering in place.”

     Since then, her store has been closed to the public, and she’s been there Wednesdays and Fridays to fill orders for sewers and to accept donated masks that will be distributed to people who need them.

     Mayor Pat Baustian requested Bork’s help with the effort. “It’s just the right thing to do,” he said Monday. He said several church sewing groups, in addition to many independent sewers, have converted quilting efforts to mask making, and they need a central place to donate the masks for distribution.

     Bork said she’s not sure how it’s going to work, but she will be at her locked store in Luverne on Wednesdays and Fridays, and people with mask donations can call her and she’ll arrange to accept them. The phone number is 507-283-9769.

     Meanwhile, Bork has been experimenting with her own pattern. “Everyone’s making them and there are so many different sizes and kinds,” she said.

     She consulted with daughter-in-law Annie Bork, who uses masks at Southwestern Mental Health Center, and they’ve arrived at one that’s comfortable and relatively protective, Bork said.

     Her version uses a soft inner layer against the skin and an outer decorative layer with a panel of pillow ticking sewn between them. Since elastic has been in short supply, she uses stretchy legging material for the ties.

     The CDC maintains that surgical masks are the only way to protect against contagion from a known symptomatic coronavirus carrier. And because they’re in short supply, they’re reserved for health care professionals.

     However, the CDC isn’t discouraging the use of basic fabric masks that meet basic guidelines (covering the nose and lower part of the face). Late last week it announced the homemade barriers prevent the wearer from spreading germs and serve as a reminder not to touch faces.

     The Minnesota Department of Public Health has also issued guidelines and a suggested pattern at

Sanford offers homemade mask tips

Sanford Luverne on Tuesday offered information about homemade masks — how they should be used, cleaned, stored and more.

Essentially, they’re a good alternative to medical-grade masks, which should be conserved for those providing direct care for patients.

They serve as a barrier for someone who does not have signs or symptoms, as a way of limiting transmission.

“Masks or cloth face coverings can help with preventing your germs from infecting others, especially in situations where you may spread the virus without symptoms,” the information stated.

“Wearing a mask does not protect you from others who may spread the virus. … Whether or not you wear a mask, you still need to wash your hands frequently, cover your cough, and stay at least six feet away from others.”


Other points in the information include:

•People who are sick should still stay home. Wearing a mask does not mean people who are sick should go out into the community. If you are sick and need to go to the doctor, call your health care provider before going in and wear a mask to the clinic.

•CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

•CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. 

•A cloth facemask prevents people from touching their face, as that is a likely way to transmit the virus.

•Alternative facemasks are NOT considered personal protective equipment (PPE) since they have not been proven to protect people from contracting a virus.

•Cloth masks have to be washed in very hot water (160 degrees if possible) and detergent daily. When not in use, fabric should be stored in a clean, closed paper bag or breathable container, folded like a taco, outside to outside (dirty to dirty). 

 How to wear masks

•Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before touching the mask.

•If the mask has a stiff bendable edge on the top and is meant to mold to the shape of your nose.

•Facemask with ear loops: Hold the mask by the ear loops. Place a loop around each ear.

•Facemask with bands: Hold the mask in your hand with the nosepiece or top of the mask at fingertips, allowing the headbands to hang freely below hands. Bring the mask to your nose level and pull the top strap over your head so that it rests over the crown of your head. Pull the bottom strap over your head so that it rests at the nape of your neck.

•Mold or pinch the stiff edge to the shape of your nose, if your mask has a stiff edge.

•Pull the bottom of the mask over your mouth and chin.

How to remove

•Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before touching the mask. Avoid touching the front of the mask. The front of the mask is contaminated. Only touch the ear loops/ties/band.

•Hold both of the ear loops and gently lift and remove the mask.

•If you have a facemask with bands: Lift the bottom strap over your head first then pull the top strap over your head.

•Store folded like a taco, outside to outside (dirty to dirty)

•Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer.


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