Auburn initiative looks to make 10K masks during pandemic

Updated: Apr. 10, 2020 at 6:01 PM CDT
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AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - Medical facilities across the region in dire need of protective face masks soon will get a much-needed boost in supplies, thanks to a new Auburn University initiative.

Through a coalition of university units and faculty led by Auburn University Outreach’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute(OLLI), plans are underway to produce 10,000 protective face masks to meet the growing demand due to COVID-19.

Recognizing the major grassroots effort to make masks for medical facilities, Auburn University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is stepping in to help.

“Because we are a unit of outreach, we realize that our mission is to respond to the changing needs of society, and to increase the quality of life for the people of Alabama," said organizer Scott Bishop, director of OLLI at Auburn. “What we thought is, what can we do with Auburn University’s resource To enhance this kind of effort, the small army of people out there with sewing machines trying to make a difference. So we went to some of our experts. We went to Dr. Fred Kam, who’s the director of the Auburn University Medical Center, and to Professor Chris Schnittka, who is a science education professor but also has a background in engineering. She and Dr. Kam worked together on developing a mask design.”

With just the design, that’s available right now online, over 250 masks have been made and distributed, but they aren’t stopping there. The Auburn University Foundation is providing $20,000 to buy over 1,600 yards of fabric to help aid production. Now, anyone that has a sewing machine can help create the masks.

“Industrial design depart came to us and said, you know, we can be cutting out this pattern at hundreds an hour, then we could then we could be distributing the kits. So starting next week, we’re going to really kick up the production of these kits that people can pick up at Sunny Slope, and then brink them back, or keep the mask for their own use or for their families. If they bring them back to us after they’ve made the mask, then we in outreach using the work of Outreach Global, we’re distributing them to people who have expressed an interest in needing them,” Bishop said.

That includes hospitals, nursing homes, medical clinics, and first responders. The goal is to distribute 10,000 masks.

Anyone interested in sewing masks can pick up a kit at Sunny Slope, located at 1031 S College Street in Auburn.

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