Santa Clarita participates in global effort to create personal protective equipment

Rachel Nelson, left, packages some of the 24 finished masks as Wade Morrison disinfects the MERV-13 filters that are inserted in the fabric masks assembled at No Strings Attached Costumes in Saugus on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
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Santa Clarita Valley residents have joined in on the global effort to donate critical personal protective equipment to be used by medical workers battling the coronavirus — even going so far as to create their own masks.

As of Wednesday, the effort has an adequate supply of masks and PPE gear, but that doesn’t mean they are refusing donations, according to officials at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.

In fact, they’re encouraging it.

Personal protective equipment, according to Larry Kidd, chief clinical director for Henry Mayo, is the type of supplies needed to take care of patients who might have an infectious disease. They can also be used with patients who might be sick themselves in order to keep that patient from infecting others.

No Strings Attached Costumes owner Tonya (cq) Nelson checks a finished mask she just sewed in Saugus on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

Things such as non-latex gloves, gowns and masks are considered PPE, and each component is part of the multiple levels of protection hospital staff wears.

“One is a basic mask, that is a surgical mask that is worn just for staff who are working in the area outside of a patient’s room,” said Kidd. “The (second level of equipment) would be required if I was, say, working with a patient with an infectious disease. I would also, in addition to wearing the appropriate mask, I would have an eye cover, I would have a gown that would be an isolation-type gown that’s specially made for that purpose.”

The third level requires what those in the medical field describe as an N-95 mask.

“The N-95 is specifically designed to filter out certain particles,” said Kidd. “Regular surgical masks are for general types of care.”

Volunteer, actor Thomas Rudolph cuts the fabric to make masks at No Strings Attached Costumes in Saugus on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

In the case of COVID-19, or coronavirus, the disease is transmitted through droplets from the host coming in contact with mucous membranes, such as the eyes, nose or mouth. The N-95 and eye shield would be able to protect the medical staff.

The hospital has an adequate supply of PPE gear, according to Marlee Lauffer, vice president of marketing and communications for Henry Mayo. But the hospital, like many other hospitals, is looking toward an uncertain future.

Private vendors and individuals have donated lab supplies and even the William S. Hart Union High School District had an employee come upon a pallet of unused masks in the back of their warehouse.

Tonya (cq) Nelson puts finishing touches on a mask at No Strings Attached Costumes in Saugus on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

“We arranged to have 30,000 of those much-needed masks delivered to Henry Mayo, Holy Cross and Northridge Hospitals,” district Superintendent Mike Kulhman said in a statement earlier this week.

Santa Clarita’s social media in recent days has seen an increasing number of people sharing their pictures and thoughts on how to make masks, putting their sewing and “Do It Yourself” skills to the test and donating masks to those who need them, such as medical professionals and those working in “essential” fields. Some people have even made them during electronic video chat parties.

One such effort being conducted by residents in Saugus has led to hundreds of masks being created.

“My mother is currently undergoing chemotherapy at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and has no immune system at all … I asked her what I could do for her, and I sent her some masks that I got,” said John Anthony, who is helping fund the operation through his business Redemption Road. “And then she said, ‘What about the people who do chemo with me?’”

With the help of Rachel and Tonya Nelson, along with some others, Anthony and his colleagues have created hundreds of masks that they have donated both locally and around the country.

A Colorfully decorated mask cover created at No Strings Attached Costumes in Saugus on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

“They went the distance because they knew that we were primarily going to be targeting pediatrics centers, and so they’re making (the masks) with Wonder Woman, Batman, Spider Man, CoCo, Frozen.”

“Obviously, our first choice would be if you have appropriate personal protective equipment that you can donate, we would love that,” said Lauffer. “But there are many people who have asked about sewing masks for future use.”

Lauffer said the hospital is not presently using the handmade masks, but “there may come a time where they would be appropriate for us to use and so we are gratefully accepting all of those donations.”

“That is the backup in the event that we get to that point, because we just don’t know what’s ahead in terms of numbers of patients that eventually might be seen.”

Although the masks created by Anthony’s team do have filters, other non-filtered designs can be found online. Lauffer suggested using either CDC-approved designs or reputable ones on YouTube.

For information on making donations to the hospital, such as gloves, masks, face shields, hand sanitizers and monetary donations, call 661-200-1200 or email [email protected].

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