WESTFIELD – As reports of dwindling medical supplies continue to surface locally, at a statewide level, and all across the country due to the coronavirus outbreak, a local group of concerned citizens is stepping up to help health professionals and first responders.
Two business professionals who reside in Westfield, Marie Crane-Yvon and Heidi Leonard, have formed a group which goes by the name of Mask Makers for Westfield. Together, this group of individuals has come together to create hand-sewn cloth masks to fit over N95 respirator masks as a second line of defense against COVID-19.
“Once I knew that (health care workers and first responders) were so desperate for supplies, I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” said Crane-Yvon, who owns a paint contracting business. “Then I saw there was another avenue and saw there were people who were sewing masks.”
Crane-Yvon said she received a request from an emergency room doctor for respiration masks last week with supply running dangerously low. She then scoured the area with her team of volunteers, collecting 31 respiration masks and then delivering them to Baystate Noble Hospital, Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Baystate Franklin Medical Center, and Cooley Dickinson Hospital.
The demand for masks continued to grow.
At the same time, Crane-Yvon and Leonard started receiving assistance from other area residents, forming Mask Makers for Westfield. Together, they are creating a surplus of masks that could be used locally.
“They’re helping the community – it’s a win-win for everybody,” said retired longtime Westfield firefighter Curt Gezotis, noting the extra layer of precaution these masks can provide for everyone from health care workers to emergency first responders. “They’re looking out for safety on our front lines.”
Gezotis said he fears area hospitals will soon reach a critical stage in their fight against COVID-19 without the proper equipment needed to battle the invisible enemy.
Every member of the Mask Makers For Westfield are required to view tutorials and are provided guidelines to ensure masks are created to be safe, effective tools in combating the coronavirus. Masks are washed in hot water, dried, and then bagged twice.
There are currently secure drop-off locations at the Broad Street Fire Station.
The Westfield Fire Fighters Local 1111 at 34 Broad St. in Westfield is also accepting monetary donations to help fund the purchase of supplies for materials as well as sanitization products.
The Westfield News reached out to Baystate Health officials, seeking the state of medical equipment used in the fight against COVID-19, but the health system declined to comment regarding that topic. As of press time, the Westfield Fire Department had not returned a call.
Southwick Fire Chief Russ Anderson said his department had roughly two weeks of surgical masks available, although he noted: “If things ramp up as predicted, supplies could go quicker.”
Anderson said first responders in Southwick were following all protocols, taking all of the necessary precautions to protect the well-being of his firefighters and the health and safety of the public.