Orcas Residents Supporting Health Care Workers

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is causing shortages of personal-protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers and hospice caregivers on Orcas Island. Some island residents have banded together and are actively working to help create solutions.

When an email plea from Debra O’Conner of Hospice of the NW came through last week to Hilary Canty at the Orcas Island Community Foundation (OICF), islanders immediately responded. O’Conner is an incredibly important member of our health care community, assisting hospice patients and families all over San Juan County. She expressed concern over the dwindling supplies of face masks and protective gowns needed to care for hospice patients.

As islanders tend to do, a group quickly banded together to help solve this challenge.

Asifa Pasin, a Board Member with ORS/The Exchange, has been extremely active running Sew4ZeroWaste Workshops at The Exchange over the last year. Hosting workshops to make bees wax food wraps and shopping bags from recycled fabrics have given way to the far more critical work of making of Personal Protective Equipment fo Orcas Island’s health care professionals.

“The email [from Hospice of the NW] came in on Thursday,” Pasin said.” By Saturday I was at the Odd Fellows Hall with a crew of four people who were eager to get started sewing.”

Asifa and her group prepared the space for sewing by cleaning and disinfecting the space. They took further precautions by health screening all who came to help sew. They provided face masks, gloves and gowns to everyone.

The first project was to make protective gowns from plastic film. At the end of the day they carefully folded and placed finished gowns in a bags and dated them. They completed 50 PPE gowns over the weekend and hope to double that number this coming weekend.

Helping health care workers during coronavirus

Cathy Vierthaler, also a member of the ORS Board of Directors, has been volunteering by making face masks that mimic the shape of the N95 masks (although not suitable replacements for actual N95 masks), utilizing single use filters from vacuum cleaner bags (from The Exchange).

“I’m so glad that I can help our health care community by making these face masks. Actively doing something to help eases the anxiety of this awful situation,” says Vierthaler.

The group currently has sufficient help for making the PPE gowns. If your interested in helping the Mask Makers group please contact Michele Keyes at (206) 794-5356.

Stay home and stay well!