As Some Organize Virtual Sewing Circle, Officials Put Out Call For Protective Equipment

As medical professionals all over North Texas are reporting low supplies of personal protective equipment like masks, gowns, and face shields, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins put out a plea for the business community to help address the shortage.

A few hours earlier, Jenkins had tweeted a plea to President Donald Trump to use the Defense Production Act, which gives the president powers to ask manufacturing companies to convert their production to needed items during times of emergency.

The act, which was passed shortly before the Korean War in the 1950s, allows the president to require businesses to “prioritize and accept government contracts” and provide incentives to make sure the country has supplies for an impending public health crisis.

Friday, General Motors announced it would work with a ventilator company to help increase production.

By Saturday evening, however, it seemed that the judge was ready to move on his own, saying “we can’t wait for the federal government.” His plan was to approach the business community to help provide the things that are slow to arrive, like masks, personal protection equipment, and hand sanitizer, pointing out that Fiat and Jaguar are already doing so in their respective countries.

Not long after, several city council members and other city staffers shared the same message across social media.

“Per Judge Clay Jenkins’ press conference tonight, the City/County are calling for clothing manufacturers who are able to produce PPE, such as gloves and protective masks. If you are or know of a manufacturer who can assist, contact: [email protected] Put COVID-19 in the subject.”

But citizens are also organizing to help address the need. One group has amassed a list of needs from area health care providers, and has started a drive to see if local businesses involved in construction, medical spas, veterinary clinics and more have supplies to donate.

Rebecca Bell Wilson, one of the organizers, stressed the biggest need is N95 masks and medical-grade gloves in unopened boxes. If individuals or companies have a supply, they can email Wilson at [email protected]

And one Dallas woman has already organized a 350-member virtual sewing circle ready to start making masks, and she’s already been doing the research to make sure that the masks they make would be used – and safe – for health professionals.

Taylor Slovak said she knows there are a lot of patterns out there, so she’s working with one member in particular to create a single pattern for each personal protection item, so that the members of the DFW COVID PPE Sewing Relief Group can provide some quality-control.

“My goals are to create a space where volunteers with sewing machines can gather (virtually) to share information,” Slovak said. “While there are currently many different patterns/streams of info about mask making, I would like to have one pattern for each PPE item in need which would be approved by one of our COVID response teams, either at Parkland or the city/county.”

“One of our members who is transitioning her fabrication business to manufacturing PPE has offered to allow us to use her prototypes/patterns which were designed with input from a Parkland surgeon,” she added. “She has shared wholesale supplier info as well for the fabrics/materials.”

Slovak said she has reached out to city council members to get in contact with someone who can review the prototypes, hopefully at the county level or with Parkland’s team.

“We want to ensure what everyone will be making is the best possible protection for those on the front lines, at our medical facilities and law enforcement,” she said, adding that after that, the protocols would be distributed to each medical facility in the county, and publish instructions on how to make each item for volunteers.

“It would be a dream to launch the 100 Million Mask Project here locally, in alignment with Providence Health System in Seattle, Washington,” she said. “We could send out kits to volunteers, which would produce 100 masks per kit.”

Slovak said the materials in the prototype – and the materials that would be in each kit –  are medical-grade materials, but that they want to double check with health officials first.

“We have almost 350 members waiting to sew – many with commercial capacity,” she said.



Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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