NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – North Texans are banding together to sew face masks for hospitals running desperately short of personal protective equipment as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies.

“Anybody with basic sewing skills can put these together,” said Southlake mom Shelli Nickel.

Hospitals and health care workers say the do-it-yourself face masks like the ones Nickel is making are a last resort but better than nothing.

“It’s got to be terrifying to be out there knowing that every second that you are exposed to person-after-person-after-person and then you go home to your family and your friends,” said Nickel, whose mother taught her to sew as a child.

In just three days, Nickel has already sewn more than 26 masks for area health care workers.

From Southlake, to Dallas where Tuesday morning a Dallas city council member made a plea for masks to protect police officers — people are pitching in.

And UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth donated 5,000 surgical masks and 50 N-95 masks for first responders fighting COVID-19 in Tarrant County.

“This donation continues to demonstrate the relationship between the Fort Worth Fire Department and The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth,” said Jim Davis, Fort Worth Fire Chief. “We appreciate the collaboration and the donation of these masks as they will permit us to provide added layers of barriers between patients and first responders, decreasing the risk of transfer.”

Dr. Brian Gladue, vice president of research at the Office of Research Compliance at HSC Fort Worth, said the donation included 5,000 surgical/procedure masks and 50 N-95 masks.

“As a citizen organization of Tarrant County, as well as a university of the State of Texas, it is hugely important for HSC to be a partner and help as much as possible,” Dr. Gladue said. “We live here, we work here … We are members of the city, county and state family. When it comes to public health and disease management, we are ALL in this together. So, yes, it is hugely important, and we are looking for ways to help as much as we can … and be safe doing so.”

Gladue said both types of masks are typically used for staff protection while engaged in procedures involving animal research, clinical interactions with patients, or for biomedical laboratory research.

The masks are coming from the Department of Laboratory Animal Medicine directed by Dr. Egeenee Daniels.

The donation comes as the Tarrant County medical community is being urged to help fight the virus by donating personal protective equipment supplies. It also follows stepped-up efforts by city and county leaders to fight COVID-19.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley announced a stay at home declaration against COVID-19 on Tuesday, March 24. The announcement was made alongside Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams and health care leaders who included HSC President Dr. Michael R. Williams.

Dr. Williams said the university is focused on helping first responders and asked the community to remain hopeful.

“When there is uncertainty, there is fear, and when there is fear, there is loss of hope,” Williams said. “We will come through this.”

But for many sitting at home worrying as the virus strains hospitals and the economy teeters, sewing masks makes them feel less helpless.

Efforts in America mirror those happening around the world, including Belgium and Spain where volunteers are sewing masks and making other protective equipment for health care workers as confirmed infections continue to rise.

For more information about donating the masks email masks@nicorgroup.net or cindy.mask@tccd.edu or you can drop them off at Texas Gun Experience  – 1901 S. Main St. In Grapevine.

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