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Coronavirus: Unprecedented amount of masks donated to Toronto hospital after urgent public appeal

East Toronto Hospital’s face mask challenge receives unprecedented volunteerism
WATCH ABOVE: After Michael Garron Hospital appealed to sewers in Toronto to make 1,000 face masks a week during the COVID-19 pandemic, the call is being answered. Global's Melanie Zettler reports on the many Toronto-area residents who are coming together as a sewing army in a time of need.

If Michael Garron Hospital has its way, most of the city’s east Toronto residents will soon be wearing a new accessory amid the coronavirus pandemic — a face mask.

On Friday, an appeal for volunteers to sew face masks amid a shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic, got the attention of hundreds of crafty residents from near and far.

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“It’s been completely unprecedented. Nothing we could have ever possibly predicted. We’ve had literally hundreds of people tagging us on Instragram,” said Meredith Ferguson, director of marketing and communcations for the Michael Garron Hospital Foundation.

To start, the masks will be given to approved visitors and discharged patients but since hospital health officials say wearing some sort of a mask is better than nothing, the hope is more of the general population will wear them too.

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“We want to see all east-enders wearing a fabric mask when they need to be within six feet of other people, especially vulnerable populations and the elderly,” wrote Dr. Jeff Powis, medical director of infection prevention & control at Michael Garron Hospital.

24-year-old entrepreneur spreading joy, delivery care packages to Toronto’s most vulnerable
24-year-old entrepreneur spreading joy, delivery care packages to Toronto’s most vulnerable

Clothing designer, Diana Coatsworth organized a Facebook group called “The Sewing Army” shortly after she was made aware of the need for alternative face masks.

She has been organizing the cross-Canada effort to connect people with pattern instructions, supplies and sewing support.

“[It’s] because we want to help – because there is a desperate need and we have time and we have skill,” said Coatsworth.

Ryan Alexander is another east Toronto fashion designer in the process of making just under 150 masks in the last week alone.

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“It just makes you feel like you are doing something to help without having to be out in public,” said Alexander.

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The initiative reached kids costume creator, Shari Woods of “Dream Power Costumes” in Waterloo, Ont.

To date, Woods and her daughter have made about 100 face masks, a few dozen surgical caps, and a few hospital gowns although some of these donations have been sent to midwifery clinics and homeless shelters as well as to Michael Garron Hospital.

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The hospital foundation’s website provides instructions on how to make the mask.

Hospital staff said it will be everybody’s responsibility to keep their own mask clean by washing them daily in hot water and laundry detergent. Each donated mask will be sanitized by the hospital but only new, clean fabric should be used to make the masks.

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But on top of masks, health officials continue to stress the importance of physical distancing and regular hand washing as well as keeping hands away from touching faces.

Completed face masks can be dropped off in the Coxwell lobby of Michael Garron Hospital between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. The hospital is located at 825 Coxwell Ave., Toronto, Ont.