Jennifer Reyes is the Director of Operations for Victory Medical in Austin, Texas. Between Victory Medical’s four locations, she oversees the needs of more than 170 healthcare workers. When the COVID-19 outbreak first reached Texas in early February, Reyes only had 50 surgical masks and four N-95 masks to spread out amongst her staff.
As the pandemic began to bloom across the United States, demand for protective equipment quickly outpaced the supply, and hundreds of local healthcare administrators found themselves in a similar predicament. Reyes faced the challenge head on, and ended up sparking a movement that provided for more than tenfold the 170 healthcare providers she oversees. Using social media to tell the Austin community of her workers in need, Reyes’ goal was to find volunteers willing to sew home-made masks, and thus the Make-A-Mask movement was born. The people of Austin heard her call for help, and a beautiful network of volunteers sewed masks for everyone in her facilities. The response was so great, that Reyes expanded the mission to all Healthcare facilities in the Austin area. She ended up leading a donation effort that expanded across the entire city of Austin, coordinating the filling and delivery of mask requests, on occasion providing more than 1,000 masks in a single day. In recent weeks, hospitals have been able to catch up with their supply needs, so the Make-a-Mask project is coming to end on May, 10th. Wanting to highlight Reyes and her team for their leadership in such uncertain times, we reached out to hear about what they were able to accomplish.
How many masks has Make-A-Mask provided to Healthcare facilities?
Due to the work of our wonderful volunteers, we’ve now been able to distribute more than 13,500 mask covers and 10,000 face shields.
What types of medical facilities did the Make-A-Mask project serve?
We’ve filled requests from just about every healthcare facility you can think of. These include Hospitals, Free-Standing Emergency Centers, Doctors’ Offices, Nursing Homes, Hospice Centers, First Responders and Fire Departments. In all we’ve worked with more than 150 facilities to provide masks.
How large was an average request for masks and how long did it take to fulfill from start to finish?
Our requests varied dramatically with each facility. Some facilities requested as little as 5 mask covers. Our largest request was right around 1,800. The orders were filled as quickly as we could get masks picked up and delivered. On our largest pickup to date, we received more than 1,400 mask covers in a single day. That allowed us to quickly fill requests from several different facilities, and it felt incredible.
What do you think contributed to this project’s success?
When we started weeks ago, medical facilities were desperate for supplies and many people did not know how to make masks that were approved by medical professionals. Our great success is that we were able to quickly assimilate this info and share it in clear ways to seamsters. Our great volunteers were then able to kick into gear making the patterns needed.
What are plans for the Make-a-Mask community moving forward?
Thankfully, we have now filled all of the requests we’ve received, and we’re not seeing the requests from medical facilities like we once were. We’ve set an end date to the project for Sunday, May 10th. It feels bittersweet because we’ve poured so much passion into this project. We also feel awe-inspired and humbled knowing that we obtained our goal. That’s why an end date feels like the right thing to do now. Now we can explore other ways we may be able to help Austin / other communities going forward.
Besides your volunteers, did anyone else play a role in your efforts?
Two local sewing shops supported our efforts. Their help was invaluable to us, and we can’t thank them enough. They were a crucial part of getting our volunteers the materials they needed. A huge thanks to Honey Bee Quilt Shop, Sew Much More, Masks For Docs, Slow North, Tomlinson’s Feed (South Lamar), Austin Gift Company, Hill Country Bridal and Alterations, Visser Creations, and Victory Medical Center.
The leadership that Reyes and her team showed at the outset of COVIDs spread in the United States allowed thousands of healthcare workers to work the frontlines with reduced chance of catching and spreading the virus. It’s efforts like these that save lives. We want to send our appreciation to the Make-a-Mask team and their volunteers for everything they were able to accomplish. Thank you. You are part of what makes Austin such a great place to live and serve.
The Importance of Masks in Stopping the Spread of COVID-19
The spread of Coronavirus occurs primarily from human-to-human interaction. A person infected with COVID-19 can expel small droplets from their nose or mouth each time they cough, sneeze or even just speak. These droplets can travel up to three feet before falling to the ground. Droplets may be picked up by someone not infected if they land on doorknobs, tables or handrails. This person can easily become infected should they then touch their mouth, rub their eye etc. as the virus has then entered their body.
Masks help to limit the overall number of droplets being sent into the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. Further, they work to stop the droplets that do escape from traveling as far as they might have otherwise. Because COVID-19 can lie dormant in people for several days before symptoms are shown, it is important for everyone to wear a mask when leaving their house. The people you come into contact with may be carrying the virus but not yet aware of their doing so. Masks allow us to take a proactive step in mitigating the spread of the virus.