Windsorites are making DIY face masks, regardless of effectiveness

Some who sew in Windsor, Ont. are piecing together cloth and elastics in an effort to make face masks for health-care workers and those with compromised immune systems.

Shelley Worley, who works as a frontline worker in long-term care, said she donated about 275 masks — mostly to children — that she made at home with the help of her sister.

"They're not N95-regulated, but ... I say, any sort of precaution, whether it be a low percentage, is better than none," she said.

Karen Harris, who is immunocompromised, is also making masks which she hopes will be used in hospitals throughout the city.

"It started with just looking into ideas to protect myself in case I needed to go out into the community, but then once I saw that there was a call for masks in the United States and people were starting to post videos and patterns of the most effective masks, that's when I really started ... [to] gear up production in my own home."

Submitted by Shelley Worley

Harris said she currently has 30 masks in the process of being made that will be ready for distribution within a few days.

Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease specialist and chief of staff for Humber River Hospital in Toronto, told CBC News that it's still unclear how effective masks are alone, especially ones made from cloth.

"They do tend to be quite porous and so fairly large droplets could potentially get through those masks," he said. "If we don't have good evidence for surgical masks, we definitely don't have the evidence for cloth masks."

"Stay away from people"

Gardam also said people don't tend to handle and remove masks with proper precautions.

"People tend to play with their mask or move it around. Some people even take their mask off when they're talking to somebody," Gardam said. "All of that kind of negates the purpose in the first place."

Shelley Worley

He said people should wash their hands and lift the mask up carefully away from their face and wash their hands again after disposing of it. The most effective strategy to protect oneself from exposure to coronavirus, however, is through social distancing.

"Stay away from people. If you're not around people, you don't need a mask," said Gardam.

Regardless of how effective masks might be, both Harris and Worley said they will continue making homemade masks and encourage others to help out.

"I understand that they're not as effective. I've read some research. ... And I was really hoping that it wouldn't come to this, but if they can provide any protection at all ... it's something," Harris said.

"I just want people to help each other out in the community," said Worley. "We have to stand together united to get through this."