Durham printing company turning fabric into personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, emergency personnel

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The colorful creations printed at Spoonflower normally outfit bed spreads and pillows.

Now the designs are being used in the fight against COVID-19.

“It started to dawn on everyone that we could do this because we have fabric, we have the ability to sew, we have a factory that could do this,” said Spoonflower CEO Michael Jones.

Jones says the idea to create masks came from employees of the Durham printing company, as healthcare workers across the country raised the alarm about the growing need for personal protective equipment or PPEs.

“It’s very difficult when you can’t give your staff what they need just to protect themselves. The front-line workers, they are terrified,” said Kesha Rooks.

Rooks is the Chief Operations Officer for Rural Health Group in Roanoke Rapids.

She says PPEs began to dwindle over the last month as more people began purchasing them for personal use.

Rooks say they reached out to construction companies, and even put out a plea on Facebook asking people to donate masks.

“It does put us at risk because we should be wearing PPE with every patient right now, knowing so many people are asymptomatic,” said Rural Health Group medical director Kristen Dorsey-Leak.

Dorsey-Leak says an employee’s mother put them in touch with Spoonflower.

Jones says Spoonflower has been working with medical professionals and developed several prototypes for masks.

They ultimately came up with two designs of non-medical grade fabric masks; a cotton double-layer fabric mask and a gaiter-style mask.

“There’s so much desperation that really what they needed was something that can cover over the actual medical-grade mask they have today or something they could slide a filter in,” said Jones.

This week Spoonflower shipped masks to medical workers in Tennessee, Massachusetts and Rural Health Group.

Rooks say they plan to wear Spoonflower’s masks over N95 masks or surgical masks to prolong the life span, which is normally 48 hours.

“We could probably wear that longer because we could wash the one that’s over it,” she said.

Jones says the goal is to make as many masks as possible, so Spoonflower is providing free fabric to its 250 employees so they can sew masks on their own.

The next phase, Jones says, is to utilize Spoonflower’s global community of 4.5 million customers, designers and artists to make masks that they can donate to medical professionals in their own community.

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