While the coronavirus continues to sweep through New Mexico, making face masks is one way some Albuquerque locals are working on the front lines against the virus.
With schools shuttered, local first-grade teacher and University of New Mexico alumna Angel Padilla is using her time to sew face masks. She has already made 35 masks and is currently working on 100 more.
"In the event that healthcare professionals run out of personal protective equipment (PPE), these masks will be available instead of a scarf or bandana," Padilla said. "I've been told that it might be possible to prolong the life of N95 masks when used with the masks I am making."
N95 face masks are PPE which block up to 95% of airborne particles and liquids. They are intended for use in a health care setting and are meant to be disposed of after a single use.
Padilla, who graduated from UNM in 2016 with a bachelors in education, worked with a nurse to create the template for her face masks. These handmade masks are washable, reusable and have a filter pocket where a vacuum cleaner bag adds extra filtration. They can be worn alone or under an N95 face mask.
When Padilla's face masks are finished, she donates them to local health care professionals and grocery store workers.
"I have some friends in Arizona who are nurses who have requested masks," Padilla said. "After filling orders for people who have made requests, I will donate them to local area hospitals if their supply runs out."
The need for face masks was brought to Padilla's attention by friends working in the medical field whose face mask supplies were, according to her, running very low.
"They asked if I had the ability to make masks to help if they ran out," Padilla said. "They explained that if I made masks, they would be used as a last resort. I told them I would do research and experiment with patterns and found some that would work."
Mark Rudi, a spokesperson for the UNM Hospital, said, "Our health system does not have concerns about running out of PPE or masks at this time. We are being cautious and judicious with these items to ensure we continue to have supplies for our staff treating suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients."
"Sewing is my outlet for dealing with stressful situations," Padilla said. "Making these masks is definitely helping me navigate my way through this pandemic. I would suggest that those people who are stressed or anxious start doing something — no matter how small — to help get us through this. It helps mentally, spiritually and emotionally."
Those interested in making face masks to donate can find many groups on Facebook and other social media platforms who are asking for donations.
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"The way many of us have come together to support each other during this crisis is just phenomenal," Padilla said. "We'll get through this together."
Loreena Cain is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @loreena_cain