A Seattle-area hospital system is asking volunteers to sew fabric masks to make up for a shortage of protective gear to fight COVID-19

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A Seattle-area hospital system is asking volunteers to sew fabric masks to make up for a shortage of protective gear to fight COVID-19

n95 mask

Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

Providence St. Joseph Health is facing a critical shortage of protective gear, including masks.

A Seattle-area hospital system is asking volunteers to sew fabric masks to help make up for a shortage of protective gear during the novel coronavirus crisis.

Providence St. Joseph Health - like many hospital systems are the country - has a critical shortage of N95 masks, the industry's standard for filtering out airborne diseases and has had to ask healthcare workers to reuse protective equipment.

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The hospital system is offering kits with materials to make 100 masks to volunteers in the Seattle area who know how to sew and have a sewing machine at home.

"We need to act now to ensure caregivers have the isolation masks they need to do their jobs safely," reads a call on Providence's website. "Anyone with a willing heart and the ability to sew can help us protect our caregivers by sewing masks they can wear on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19."

Providence will make kits available for pickup, beginning Monday at its hospital in Renton, Washington. While the effort is starting in Western Washington, Providence indicated it could expand to other areas.

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Asking volunteers to sew masks is the latest unusual step the hospital system has resorted to in order to cope with the shortage of protective gear.

Providence administrators have used office materials to craft face masks and shields, a spokesperson told Business Insider, and healthcare workers and suppliers are driving protective gear between hospitals, once in the middle of the night.

Providence has 51 hospitals. Washington state has had 1,376 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 74 deaths as of this writing.

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