To help doctors and nurses, local residents crafting masks and gowns

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Paper products, cleaning materials and some food items have been in short supply in the Powell area amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but at Cut & Sew Fabrics, there’s been a recent run on a different material.

“The elastic is like the toilet paper,” Cut & Sew owner Donna Reile said Tuesday, with a laugh.

However, unlike the national toilet paper shortage, her store’s dwindling supply of elastic isn’t due to selfish hoarding, but rather from people looking to help others.

Reile said elastic — along with fabric — is being bought up by a large number of local residents who are crafting surgical masks and gowns for the doctors and nurses battling the new coronavirus. Those kinds of personal protective equipment (PPE) have been in high demand across the country.

“A lot of people want to do something and they don’t know what,” Reile said.

Ginger Morrow is among the Powell area residents now stitching together masks. On Tuesday, Morrow was finishing up her first batch of 20 cloth masks — and she purchased enough materials at Cut & Sew for roughly 40-60 more. She also plans to make isolation gowns for medical personnel and patients.

Morrow got involved after learning the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper was asking seamstresses to make PPE.

“I saw that and I said, ‘Hey, I can do that,’” Morrow said.

She explained that creating one of the homemade surgical masks involves cutting out a square piece of fabric, folding it in half, finishing the edges, putting in pleats, then attaching a ribbon or piece of elastic so the mask can be worn and tightened.

“It’s actually a fairly simple process,” said Morrow, who has years of sewing experience performing alterations. “It just takes a little bit of time.”

She and a group of other local women are still determining where their completed masks will be sent. Powell Valley Hospital is seeking isolation gowns, but both it and Cody Regional Health do not currently need masks, according to local organizers.

“I know that the hospital here does not need them, but I’m sure there are hospitals somewhere that do,” Morrow said. For instance, Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas is reportedly looking for masks and gowns.

Anyone interested in getting involved in the gown-, mask- and cap-making efforts can find more information on the Wyoming Medical Center website at www.bit.ly/2UvjVKM. The Casper-based center has posted hospital-approved patterns and recommendations for materials.

While Cut & Sew may eventually run out of elastic as Good Samaritans buy it up, “there’s a variety of different things that you can use” as ties for surgical masks, Reile said.

In the meantime, the sales have had the added benefit of providing a boost to the Powell business amid a slow time.

“It helps,” Reile said.

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