Tidelands Health Issues Urgent Appeal for Community Sewing Help with Supply of N95 Respirators

Staff Report From South Carolina CEO

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

As part of its ongoing response to the COVID-19 coronavirus threat, Tidelands Health is issuing an urgent appeal to community residents who can sew.

The health system has several thousand new, never-used N95 respirators in its warehouse. The respirators were acquired during a previous public health emergency but never used.

While the N95 respirators themselves are in new condition, the elastic straps have become brittle over time. Before the respirators can be made available to clinical staff, the straps need to be replaced.

“We are reaching out to our community and asking for your help,” said Pam Maxwell, the health system’s chief nursing officer. “If you can sew, we’d like you to join our effort to sew new elastic straps on these respirators. This is a concrete way our community can help our health care professionals who are on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19.”

Around the country, people have been organizing efforts to sew homemade surgical masks for hospitals amid the COVID-19 crisis. While surgical masks are appropriate for many uses, a professional-grade N95 respirator is an important piece of personal protective equipment used by health care professionals when they perform certain aerosolizing procedures - such as intubating a patient. The N95 provides a higher degree of protection than a surgical mask in those clinical situations where aerosols – or droplets – are produced in high concentration.

Tidelands Health is not asking the community to supply homemade surgical masks at this time.

Like health care organizations around the nation, Tidelands Health is facing a shortage of N95 respirators. If the straps on the respirators can be replaced, the health system’s supply will be extended by several weeks. The CDC has provided guidance that it is acceptable to use older but never-used N95s.

To volunteer for the sewing effort, please visit tidelandshealth.org, or call 1-866-TIDELANDS. Volunteers will be provided the necessary supplies and instructions to replace the respirators’ elastic straps.

When the respirators are returned to Tidelands Health, they will be clinically inspected and thoroughly disinfected before use by clinical staff.

“In World War II, people across America came together in unparalleled ways to support the war effort,” Maxwell said. “We are at war once again – this time against a deadly virus. It’s essential that our health care professionals on the front lines have access to personal protective equipment to keep themselves and our patients safe.

“If you can sew, we need you. We’re asking you to please help us as we work to care for you.”