In times of trial, the Omaha community pulls together — sometimes one stitch at a time.

To help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and protect the vulnerable, Metro Omaha Medical Society (MOMS) has rallied an effort to sew up to 45,000 cloth masks and distribute them to families who may not be able to buy or make them.

“The MOMS mission is to be a voice for physicians and the health of our community. We can’t think of a better way to help our community in this pandemic than with helping families access masks to protect themselves and their loved ones,” said executive director Carol Wang.

The project is just getting rolling, and collaboration is key to its success. To help recruit sewing volunteers, MOMS is utilizing the infrastructure created by Nebraska Masks for Medicine, a local mask-making effort launched by two neighbors, Holly Murphy-Barstow and Patricia Longacre. MOMS is also leaning on medical students from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University.

“We could not do this without the army of volunteers who are doing the sewing and the cutting of the fabric, the medical students from both universities who have donated their time along with Sherwood Foundation and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska for their financial assistance,” Wang said.

PPE

Examples of masks that volunteers are being asked to sew.

MOMS is using Omaha Public Schools’ meal distribution sites as a primary means to get masks into the hands of families. It has spoken with other community groups about helping to distribute masks as well.

MOMS hopes to have 40,000 to 45,000 masks completed in about eight weeks. Wang said MOMS could use “all the sewers we can get.” Those interested in donating their time and sewing expertise should visit Nebraska Masks for Medicine’s Facebook page. Join the group to sign up to volunteer.

“The masks that we’re creating are primarily two sizes: one for little faces and one that is adult-sized. We used the patterns that were developed for use by hospitals and first responders,” Wang said.

In addition to other precautions, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services urges people to wear cloth masks to cover mouths and noses in public places, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. The goal is to protect people around you if you are infected but do not have symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminds the public that masks and other cloth face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing. Attempts should still be made to stay at least six feet away from others.

“The MOMS Board of Directors see wearing masks as a part of the public health response to preventing the spread of COVID-19. But at the same time, they wanted to provide resources for those who needed help accessing masks. Thus, our initiative was born,” Wang said.

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