Health care workers make face masks for those in need

At this point, there is no denying the seriousness of COVID-19. The coronavirus, which spreads mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, has already cost 63 Virginians their lives. No one is immune to the disease. While seniors are the most susceptible, adults, teenagers and children can also catch the virus. Medical-grade masks, face shields and neck gaiters are all currently in short supply.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people not wear a N95 respirator because they filter out 95 percent of particles in the air.

When Iris Park notices a problem, she likes to address it head-on. She and her husband Joseph, both healthcare workers, are also co-owners of Miss You Flowers, a local florist that has served the Roanoke Valley for over 30 years.

To help slow the spread of COVID-19, Iris and her family are spending their spare time handcrafting face masks for those in need at no charge. Sewn by hand, each mask is given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. Requests so far have come from nursing facilities, Carilion, immune-compromised families and home health care workers. Proceeds from every mask made will go toward Angels of Assisi and the Roanoke Valley SPCA.

“We started doing this because we saw a great need and understand there is a shortage. Our goal is to help out where we can. We have the ability to provide a service to our community and we feel it’s our duty as citizens to do so,” said Iris. “We are limited on time and resources so we’re asking the community to reach out if they would like to volunteer their time or donate material. We are all in this together.”

Just like Iris and her family, Nathan O’Kane also wants to make a difference in the community and help combat the spread of COVID-19.

O’Kane, an Innovation Engineer at the Virginia Department of Transportation, recently created a Facebook group. When he asked people with 3-D printers to help make headbands for nurses and doctors, more than 20 people responded within the first two days.

The Facebook group now has over 50 members and will make their first face shield donations this Saturday. We are aiming for 400 shields, said O’Kane, and are looking at new ways to increase production by five times.

He added, “We want to make sure that healthcare workers in our local area have the supplies they need to stay safe and continue to fight the COVID-19 virus. The more healthcare workers remain healthy the better care patients will receive.”

If anyone in Salem has a 3-D printer and are interested in getting involved, they are encouraged to visit

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