Update (4/14/20): Governor Greg Abbott has announced a new partnership between the Texas Military Department (TMD) and Prestige Ameritech to increase the production and distribution of masks. TNOYS is working with the Office of the Governor and others to ensure that those who provide social services for children, youth, and families are designated as first responders, and can better access Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
We’re pleased to announce that TNOYS has several initiatives in the works to help our community access necessary supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that many organizations, especially residential service providers, are very concerned about the potential for a coronavirus outbreak within their facilities. Supplies such as hand sanitizer and masks could help keep staff and clients healthy, but these items are increasingly difficult to come by in the current climate.
TNOYS has been working on two initiatives to address this shortage and help our members access supplies. To start, we have been compiling information from Texas distilleries that are producing hand sanitizer and can help get it to our members. Learn more about this initiative here.
Now, we’ve partnered with a nonprofit called The Off Ramp to sew and distribute over 1,500 cloth masks to member organizations across Texas. These masks are being provided by TNOYS to members, free of charge. The Off Ramp is an excellent fit for this partnership, and well aligned with TNOYS’ mission: they employ and train a staff of professional sewers who are all refugees, trafficking survivors, and survivors of domestic violence. Learn more about the efficacy of the cloth masks we have available, and recommended usage below.
Are you a TNOYS member, and want to receive masks or other supplies for your organization? Please contact email@example.com to learn more.
What You Need to Know About Cloth Masks
Please note that on April 3, after this post was written, the White House announced that it is formalizing new guidance to recommend that many Americans wear face coverings, including cloth masks.
While these masks provide some protection, it is important to note that the masks we currently have available to members are not medical grade.
Little information is available from public health agencies regarding the efficacy of homemade fabric face masks. Both the CDC and WHO recommend using these masks only as a “last resort,” but suggest that a fabric mask or other cloth face covering may provide some small degree of protection from infection. Ideally, homemade fabric masks should be used in conjunction with a face shield that covers the front and sides of the face.
A study published in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness (August 2013) on the efficacy of homemade masks in an influenza pandemic found that commercial surgical masks were three times more effective than homemade fabric masks at preventing the spread of the flu and that “a homemade mask should only be considered as a last resort to prevent droplet transmission from infected individuals, but it would be better than no protection.” (source: researchgate.net)
WHO has offered the following guidelines on when to use a mask:
- If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.
- Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
- Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.
There has been some recent pushback around the idea that cloth or handmade mask are ineffective, and cloth masks are now being recommended for certain populations. A recent article by a research scientist published in the Washington Post argues that “it takes a while for official recommendations to catch up with scientific thinking” and that everyone in public should be wearing masks. The article provides a link to a Google document with summaries of 34 scientific articles that show that wearing simple masks help prevents the spread of disease. View the article here. View the Google doc here.
Another article asserts that while cloth masks may not provide the level of protection of true PPE, even the smallest amount of protection is helpful in flattening the curve.
UT Health Austin has provided the following specs for fabric masks:
- Breathable material. A double layer would be better for more protection as long as the double layer doesn’t impede breathability.
- Ability to stand up to industrial sterilization with high temperatures so masks can be reused.
- Fabric laundered in hot water prior to sewing to prevent future shrinkage.
- Pleated or sufficient fabric for comfort.
- Must provide adequate coverage for the face going up to the bridge of the nose and extending underneath the chin.
- Has to sit tightly on the nose so it doesn’t slip off.
- Some type of tie to ensure custom fit – fabric ties or elastic material that can stand up to high heat.
- A pocket so that a filter can be added later since cloth alone may not provide adequate filtration.
- And of course, following all recommended hygiene guidelines when making the masks including hand washing, a clean disinfected surface and makers wearing face masks themselves to avoid any possible contamination.
Please adhere to the following mask safety tips:
- Masks should always be worn in the same way, i.e., with the same side facing outward.
- Fabric masks should be machine washed frequently.
- Only the straps should be touched when removing masks — pull the straps from the back of the head/off the ears without touching the fabric of the mask when removing. Wash hands thoroughly after removing mask.
- Masks should be worn as securely as possible on the face and wearers are advised not to touch the mask while it is on.
- Masks do not replace the need to follow other recommended protocols for hygiene and sanitation, including regular hand washing.
TNOYS continues to work with members, service providers, and agencies to get needed resources and supplies out to the community. If you have questions on the efforts, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.