SUGAR CREEK, Ohio (WJW)– In the heart of Amish Country, John Miller’s company, Stitches U.S.A., sews more than 750,000 American flags each year.
Miller also owns a company called Supurb Industries which manufactures FDA approved healthcare equipment.
With demand for masks straining the supply he is preparing to marshal all of the resources of the Amish community to help extend the masks and medical gowns.
“There are any number of medical products that require stitching. We have 10,000 stitchers within twenty miles from here wanting to help,” said Miller.
Miller is prepared to quickly transition his company from sewing flags to sewing fabric covers in which people can place surgical masks to theoretically extend the life of the mask itself.
“The idea is this: You take an approved mask, you slide it on the inside and that would extend the life of the approved mask,” said Miller.
The Tuscarawas County Health Department says it is aware that all medical providers are doing what they can to conserve and extend the use of all personal protective equipment including masks.
But with many tutorials online showing how to make your own homemade masks out of materials including paper towels the health department cites Centers for Disease Control information as a guideline for what will and will not work.
For healthcare professionals, the fitted N95 masks are the most effective and therefore essential.
Many people are wearing the surgical type masks out in public.
“When there are few to no N95 or surgical masks available, the homemade fabric masks could be used as a last resort; however, we don’t have any data that shows how effective they are but, again, according to the CDC,” said Jennifer Demuth of the Tuscarawas County Health Department.
“When N95 masks and surgical masks are no longer available due to a shortage or a crisis situation, homemade masks can be used as a last resort,” she added.
But the World Health Organization cautions in a video from a Vanderbilt University Doctor that even a poorly fitted surgical mask may be ineffective.
“They actually don’t fit very tightly around the edge so if you breathe in and out you can actually feel the air going around the edges of the mask which kind of destroys their purpose,” said William Schaffner, M.D.
That includes dust masks and construction type masks that are not manufactured to filter out viruses.
Public health officials continue to recommend that only people who are sick consider wearing masks, in part, because there is no good research to prove that many of them, and in particular those you can make at home have any benefit.