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Retired Maine teachers sew masks for health care workers amid shortage

Two retired Portland teachers are sewing face masks to donate, as hospitals deal with a shortage of personal protective equipment due to the coronavirus pandemic.

PORTLAND, Maine — Retired Portland middle school teacher Carol Nylen is using her sewing skills to help health care workers.

"Here's a mask. It takes an elastic and you need a twist tie," Nylen said.

She and fellow retired teacher Karen MacDonald are making cotton surgical face masks to donate, as hospitals deal with shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the coronavirus outbreak.

"My role has been more on the cutting side and also getting other sewers involved," MacDonald said.

The two got the idea from their friend, Andrea Dyer, who is an operating room nurse at Central Maine Medical Center.

"When we run out of masks we need another option. They said what can we do and I was kind of shocked in a way, not really, because this is Maine and we're a community and they are second parents to me," Dyer said.

So far, the two teachers have made forty masks.

"I've gotten so many calls and texts from home health aides that said can you make me some?" Nylen said.

"Mainers do help Mainers and that's what we're seeing," MacDonald said.

While Dyer said her hospital hasn't run out of equipment yet, she said it's likely just a matter of time.

"It's really alarming being a nurse on the front lines with such a contagious virus going around. Not only to protect us but to protect the patients," Dyer said.

The final product is still waiting for approval from hospitals, but until then, the teachers said they will keep making masks so health care workers are prepared.

The Maine CDC Director said on Friday, the state has plenty of surgical face masks. He said that could change in the coming weeks and months. He said he is open to this idea of people sewing masks at home.

The teachers hope other sewers join them.

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