With face mask supply running low and the demand running high, about 70 Litchfield women hope to provide at least some assistance by creating thousands of the masks for those who need them.

DeAnn Rothstein, co-owner of DeAnn’s Country Village Shoppe in downtown Litchfield, said she saw a social media post that talked about the need for more face masks due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and she saw a way to pitch in. She helped rally a team of local women — who dubbed themselves the Masked Mamas — and came together to make about 500 masks in a week. And they plan to continue making more, Rothstein said.

“We would like to get to the point where we can put them at the grocery stores for the seniors to wear when they come into the grocery stores,” Rothstein said. “People need them. They should not be walking around without them. … It’s not like an N-95 mask, but it will extend the life of a disposable mask.

Although an N-95 mask is recommended by the Centers for Disease and Prevention as protection for health care professionals, the Masked Mama masks can also help, Rothstein said.

Rothstein said she contacted Dr. Deb Peterson, a family practice physician at Meeker Memorial Clinics & Hospital, who offered advice as to the best materials to use for the masks. The dimension of the masks is 6-inch by 9-inch, and the fabric is made of flannel, cotton and elastic. The masks come in different colors and shapes — from a Minnie Mouse character to flowers and more.

“These are being used by the hospital and the nursing home,” Rothstein said. “We’ve had a few elderly people ask us about them. First responders and the clinics. I had a couple of different people send me letters asking if we could get them for the food prep people and that kind of thing.”

The CDC allows the use of homemade masks, bandanas and scarves for health care professionals to use as a last resort.

“However, homemade masks are not considered personal protective equipment, since their capability to protect health care professionals is unknown,” according to the CDC. “Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.”

DeAnn and her husband have had their quilt business for about 28 years, selling colorful clothes, socks, home decor, children’s toys and books, and kitchenware among others. But during the uncertainty COVID-19 has caused worldwide, the couple have received a lot of encouragement.

“I can’t believe, people who even can’t do anything, can’t sew a stitch (ask), ‘Can you get me scissors, I will help you cut. I can iron.’ Some people who just say, ‘I just can’t do anything, but here’s a $10 bill,” Rothstein said. “Here’s a $20 bill, put it towards whatever you can do.’ It’s been absolutely amazing.”

Rothstein watched a YouTube mask-making tutorial created by Missouri Star Quilt Co., and she recommended it to others who may want to learn. It takes about an hour to make one mask, Rothstein said, from cutting the flannel and cotton, sewing it together, pressing it, washing and packaging.

“I have gone on to our (DeAnn’s Country Village Shoppe) store Facebook page, and I posted five pictures two days ago that has each step of what they need to do to get them made,” she said.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced on March 25 a two-week stay home order beginning at midnight Friday to help reduce community spread of COVID-19, with some exceptions to certain businesses that are considered essential.

“We are still going to be able to supply people back and forth,” Rothstein said. “And we will not be allowing people to come into the store to (shop) and that kind of thing. It will have to be curbside. And of course, now with the front road being tore up, it’s going to be more like backdoor side.”

These interesting times for the world, Rothstein said, are an opportunity to reflect on how we are living and managing our lives.

“I thoroughly believe God has His hand in this,” Rothstein said. “This whole world was spinning out of control. And suddenly, kids are staying at home with Mom and Dad in the evening. They’re putting puzzles together. They’re baking cookies from scratch. They’re doing crafts, they’re spending more time with grandma and grandpa. … We need to slow down and find out what’s important. It’s not all the stuff that we have. It’s not all the places we go to. It’s our families.”

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