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Carol Berg, 73, of Savoy models one of the masks she sewed this week.

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URBANA — Crafters itching for a new project during your forced staycations, take note.

Carle Foundation Hospital said Saturday it would happily accept handcrafted masks to cover the mouths of nonclinical folks in health care settings and will even schedule pickups from porches in Champaign and Vermilion counties.

"To be clear, at this time, Carle has sufficient supply of surgical masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for clinicians and continues to follow CDC guidance for the safety of patients and staff,” the hospital said in an online release.

But sewn masks, which will not prevent COVID-19, could help prevent the spread of germs for people outside of patient care.

“It’s better than nothing,” said Carol Berg, a talented crafter from Savoy who has been religiously sheltering at home to protect her own health.

Berg has diminished heart capacity and is scheduled for surgical tweaks in April that she’s hoping will help. She’s also hoping her surgery can go forward but will leave that decision to her cardiologist.

Berg, 73, began making masks earlier this week for herself and her husband, Dick, who is the one heading out for groceries when necessary.

“I’ve been seeing online where different places are asking for them,” said Berg, who decided to whip up a few.

Her first one, which she patterned from instructions she found online, took about 20 minutes.

“I tried to do two in a row, and it goes a lot faster. Cutting them would be faster to do two or three at a time. They are easy to make, and they don’t take long,” she said, saying she had plenty of fabric but might run low on elastic.

Berg is well aware that the fashionable masks won’t completely protect anyone, a message that Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde reinforced in a Facebook post Saturday.

“I have been working with an infectious disease doc and scientists from the UI regarding cloth masks,” she wrote. “For someone who is infected and not showing symptoms yet, we don’t know if surgical masks would prevent spread, and it is very possible they would not. Homemade masks may be even less likely to be protective.”

But Pryde agreed, as Carle did in its press release, that besides staying home or giving blood, this is a way for people who feel powerless about the pandemic to contribute.

“I honestly feel like this is going to be more of a comforting activity for people, and I do think that is important that people feel like they are contributing in a time of uncertainty,” said Pryde, who suggested that crafters make masks for people who are frequenting stores or working in stores or other essential services that are not on the health care front lines.

Carle offered the following guidance:

— To make masks, use the procedure described in this YouTube video below:

— Bundle 25 masks in a sealed zipper-lock bag.

— Include a typed note that says: “These masks do not protect you from the virus that causes COVID-19 but may help prevent the spread of germs. Practicing good hand hygiene, social distancing and staying home are the best protections.”

Carle will schedule a pickup for packages of sewn masks from porches within Champaign and Vermilion counties. Pickup must be arranged by sending an email to makeamask@carle.com. They will then launder the masks before giving them out.

Reporter

Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is mschenk@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).