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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Northeast Florida Quilters Craft Medical Masks For Local Hospitals, Nursing Homes

Rhoda Newton made this mask. She says the typical mask takes a couple hours to make
Rhoda Newton made this mask. She says the typical mask takes a couple hours to make

Sally Messenger is a retired hospice nurse. She also has two daughters who are nurses. 

“I’m not certain that the public is entirely aware that this crisis is at their doorstep in the Jacksonville area,” Messenger said. “Nor was I, so much, until this past weekend.” 

Messenger said her daughter got a call from a local nursing home. The facility was entirely out of masks and was on a waiting list to receive more. 

To combat the shortage, Messenger contacted quilters and sewers she knows in Northeast Florida. She said she’s recruited around 15 so far. 

“I have gotten lots and lots of people offering to help, and women are sewing now,” Messenger said.

She said JOANN fabric and craft stores have donated kits that make 10 masks each. The store plans to donate the finished masks to a local hospital. 

But as demand increases, Messenger said her group is in need of additional volunteers and materials.

Anyone who wants to help can reach her at smessenger5@comcast.net

Baptist Health is also asking for the homemade masks, as long as they are 100% cotton and meet CDC guidelines. 

“Our goal is to receive 20,000 face masks, so we welcome all donations and appreciate our community’s help and generosity,” said Laura Collins, a development director at Baptist Health’s Wolfson Children’s Hospital, in an email to WJCT News. 

But not all hospitals have the same policies. As of Tuesday, Memorial Hospital and the Orange Park Medical Center, both owned by parent company HCA, were not accepting homemade masks. A spokeswoman said in an email to WJCT News: “Based on current CDC guidelines, we are not accepting homemade masks because their capability to protect healthcare providers is unknown. We will certainly let the community know if this guidance changes.”

St. Vincents Hospital is now accepting homemade masks, and the hospital also has a list of donations they can accept:

  • Isolation Gowns
  • Surgical Gowns
  • N95 Respirators
  • Earloop or Tie Masks
  • Hand Sanitizers
  • Face Shields
  • Surface Disinfectants
  • Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR)
  • Controlled Air Purifying Respirators (CAPR)
  • Non-contact Thermometers
  • Other approved PPE supplies advised by the CDC


Those interested in donating supplies should call (904) 308-2619.

Personal protective equipment for healthcare professionals across the country is in short supply, said Duval County Medical Society President Dr. James St. George on WJCT’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross

“There is a shortage of these items, certainly, because [of] the sheer demand nationwide and globally, but to some degree because the public is purchasing these products and it doesn’t really serve them,” St. George said.

The local crafters say nursing homes are also asking for masks as they care for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. 

One quilter, Rhoda Newton, said her son works at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. When she saw that he still had to go to work, she decided to make him a homemade mask.

“I thought maybe this would help protect him,” Newton said. “I made one for myself. But then after I posted it [online], I got a lot more questions.”

Soon after, her niece in Virginia contacted her. As a nurse, her niece needed a mask in the midst of the nationwide shortage. 

In just a couple hours, Newton had a mask ready to send her way. 

Newton said, since then, two quilting guilds she belongs to in Northeast Florida have mobilized to make more. 

“At the bottom line, we want to help other people and we’re stuck in our homes,” Newton said. 

Patrice Mull with QuiltFest Inc. says anyone interested in helping make masks can contact her at Quiltfestprez@gmail.com.   

Baptist Health is seeking monetary donations, along with personal protective equipment and supplies. Ways to help out and drop-off locations can be found here.

Read more from WJCT News:  Local, State And National Coronavirus Coverage

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