Covers Allow for Reuse of Critical Supply of Masks – Thousands of Mask Covers to Be Made
(Robbinsdale and Eagan, Minn. – April 14, 2020) – As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Minnesota, healthcare organizations have a pressing need to protect their critical supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), including face masks. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and North Memorial Health have joined forces to create a new solution to protect masks – mask covers made of surgical wrap material that can be worn over N95 masks. One sheet of wrap can make 24 mask covers, and thousands of mask covers will be sewn for this campaign.
“The safety of healthcare professionals is on the mind of all Minnesotans and paramount to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and North Memorial Health,” said Susan Schuster, principal community relations consultant at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “We are the first in Minnesota to introduce this new mask cover design, protecting our healthcare workers who are vital to this fight, and we are proud to bring together community partners to help.”
How mask covers can help extend the life of N95 masks
North Memorial Health doctors and Susan Berns from Fairy Finery have adapted mask designs, initially developed by the University of Florida, to turn surgical wrap into protective covers for N95 masks, which prolongs their lives by preventing them from getting dirty or damaged. N95 masks are currently in short supply, and workers are being asked to wear them for longer periods of time, often while seeing multiple patients.
“As a physician leader, the care and safety of our patients and staff is always on my mind. With commercial masks in short supply globally, we have to think creatively about managing our mask supplies. As a life-long crafter and quilter, I have been inspired by the maker community’s response to COVID-19 and saw an opportunity to adapt the available designs bringing my sewing and medical skills together and engaging the passion of the community to support healthcare workers,” said Jennifer Tessmer-Tuck, MD, vice president, Medical Affairs at North Memorial Health Hospital. “These unique mask covers will protect our customers, as well as our healthcare professionals, allowing an extended life for our N95 masks. Our team is grateful for the support of the community and these donations. We thank our partners and the communities for leveraging their unique talents to make thousands of mask covers a reality.”
Surgical wrap material has several superior attributes (compared to cloth masks)
Sew Good Goods, a St. Paul-based 501(c)3 nonprofit (co-founded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota executive, retiree, Judy Walker) that works to create and donate high quality, hand-crafted items, is providing both instructional and financial support for the project, with $2,000 from Blue Cross kickstarting the effort.
Knit & Bolt, an independent yarn and fabric shop in northeast Minneapolis, will assemble the kits and distribute them to volunteers. Kits will include pre-cut surgical wrap and wire and mask loops made of jersey knit. Each kit has enough materials for 24 masks. Because surgical wrap material cannot be punctured, volunteers must be able to sew skillfully without the use of pins. Volunteers interested in being added to the waiting list to receive a kit may contact Knit & Bolt. Fifty kits will be available April 17 and another 50 will be available April 24.
Financial donations to support this project may be given directly to North Memorial Health Foundation here; choose designation COVID-19 Mask Cover Kits. Donation drop-off information can be found here.
About North Memorial Health
At North Memorial Health, we are on a mission to change healthcare. We’re delivering unmatched customer service and empowering our customers throughout the Twin Cities to achieve their best health. North Memorial Health provides access to high-quality, low-cost care throughout the Twin Cities through its medical transportation services and two hospitals – North Memorial Health Hospital and Maple Grove Hospital. North Memorial Health Clinics which include primary care, specialty care and hospice are part of a joint venture with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota that is transforming the healthcare experience for consumers. Across the North Memorial Health system, 900+ doctors and 5,000+ team members are dedicated to delivering a more connected experience for our customers.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. A nonprofit, taxable organization, Blue Cross is the largest health plan based in Minnesota, covering 2.9 million members in Minnesota and nationally through its health plans or plans administered by its affiliated companies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago.
(Editor’s note: these mask covers are not the type of masks the public should wear; they are a specific request by North Memorial Health for healthcare providers.)