Sorry, Colorado, Homemade Face Masks Aren’t Really A Solution

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David Zalubowski/AP
A currency exchange worker wears a mask as she works on a computer in her kiosk in Denver International Airport as travelers and workers deal with the spread of coronavirus Friday, March 20, 2020.

Update 4/3: The state of Colorado is now strongly recommending people wear face masks when they leave their homes. The original story is below.

Many people have taken to their sewing machines to make face masks since the novel coronavirus pandemic caused a medical mask shortage. You can look on the NextDoor app or Facebook to find people sharing patterns for the masks.

“I would like to get together some seamstresses home sewers that could possibly start this but I wouldn't want to start making a lot unless we knew exactly what kind of fabrics to use that the medical profession can be able to use them, with them functioning properly,” said Janine Meyers of Longmont, a semi-retired nurse who ran a seamstress business before her nursing job.

Meyer mostly worked in long-term care facilities and knows that medical masks use a particular material, but she thought in this time of need other versions might work. Or even if they wouldn’t work for doctors, what about the general public?

“I'm kind of just wondering if we made a bunch of masks, if we just like stood out in front of King Soopers and handed them out, I mean that's the way to go too, right?” Meyers said.

It’s not the way to go according to public health officials. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says handmade masks are not recommended unless it’s “a last resort.” And the agency says medical people using handmade masks should also use a plastic face shield. That shows you how much faith they have in the DIY masks.

Colorado Department of Health and Environment guidelines stress that if you are not sick, there is no need to wear a mask. Sneeze or cough into your elbow, wash your hands thoroughly and clean surfaces regularly. If you are sick, yes, you should wear a mask, one that is medical grade, not handmade with fabric store materials.