Hoquiam company Grays Harbor Unders, which makes base layer clothing for outdoor activities, is taking steps to help first responders and health care providers to protect themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another local business, Quilt Harbor, has a group of volunteers producing masks for the crew at Grays Harbor Community Hospital.
“Grays Harbor Unders is transferring our operations to address the shortage in masks and aprons/gowns for first responders and rural hospitals,” said Ben Winkelman, Hoquiam mayor and the company’s vice president. Both disposable and reusable masks and gowns will be produced, all with input regarding appropriate designs and materials provided by health officials.
Thursday, the company took delivery of additional commercial sewing machinery “to address a production bottleneck as we transfer our attention and process to addressing the shortage of these critical items,” said Winkelman. Friday morning, the machinery was up and running, he said.
“Basically, all of our attention is on making masks and gowns to get them out there,” said Winkelman. “Starting right here.”
The masks and gowns produced by Grays Harbor Unders will be made available first locally, then statewide and beyond as resources become available.
Friday, Kelley McDonald, United Way of Grays Harbor Executive Director, said, “We are immediately releasing $50,000 in emergency funds for the production of disposable and reusable face masks (at Grays Harbor Unders) to be allocated only in Grays Harbor County.” She said Summit Pacific Medical Center will handle the allocations in the east county, United Way in the rest of the county.
Grays Harbor Unders will put its workforce and machinery to work to produce the masks and gowns.
“Grays Harbor Unders has always prided itself in making the very best base layers on the market, right here in Hoquiam, and now we will use that skilled labor and equipment to address those frontline workers and first responders in desperate need,” said Winkelman. “We are so excited to be able to help when our community needs it so much.”
A Grays Harbor Community Hospital post Wednesday showed a selection of masks provided to the hospital by Quilt Harbor, a quilt shop on South Broadway in Aberdeen owned by Ken and Susan Rausch.
A group of quilters is making the masks based on a pattern provided by the hospital. According to the post, initial tests on the masks have shown they are very effective. The masks are made from either cotton or surgical drape material.
Susan Rausch said she’s got about 500 people on her newsletter list and has had a lot of interest from the community in helping with the masks. Thursday, one volunteer dropped a bag of ties she had just made for the masks at the shop. Rausch and her husband are able to remain open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays to take orders for materials, which they will take outside to those who come to pick them up. Ken Rausch is doing the same with sewing machine repairs.
“We’re just trying to help,” said Rausch, who added some members of the community have offered cash donations to cover the cost of materials.
It’s a time consuming process, all done to the specifications provided by the hospital. Rausch said the different steps are split between the volunteers. A couple of high schoolers are helping with ironing, Rausch was cutting the straps, her husband was affixing the metal strip at the top of the mask to make it fit tightly on the wearer’s nose.
Rausch said she has no idea how long an individual mask takes. “I cut out one whole yard of the straps at one time and ironed last night for at least two hours, and I think I got 30 done,” she said. By “done” she meant her steps, there are several in the process. “It’s a procedure,” she said.
Wednesday, 15 masks were delivered to the hospital. One person delivers and the transfer is made under strict social distancing guidelines.
The hospital is also accepting masks made by others, as long as they use the approved pattern. “That pattern has been tested and we know it will keep our staff and patients safe, and that is our number one priority,” read the post.
Some of the masks are made of 100% cotton and can be reused. Others are made from surgical drape material for one-time use. Both types of masks are in high demand.
The approved pattern for the hospital can be found online at https://www.ghcares.org/about-us/mask-pattern/; click on the GET HERE TO GET YOUR PDF text for a pdf version that shows the materials needed and step-by-step instructions.
Rausch has also provided patterns for masks for general use. She said for both the personal use and hospital masks, it is critical to follow each specific step in the production of the masks.
To find mask patterns and to see how you can help in the effort, and for updates, follow Quilt Harbor’s Facebook page.