SUMMIT, NJ - Among the vulnerabilities the coronavirus pandemic has shined a harsh light upon is the tenuous status of personal protective equipment (PPE) inventory, vital equipment that is needed to ensure the safety of healthcare professionals who are exposed to the contagion while treating patients.

In fact, Atlantic Health System recently issued a public request to businesses asking for donations of any personal protective equipment they may have. This request encompasses N95 Masks, eye protectors, sterile gowns, surgical gloves, regular masks and alternative and OSHA-approved respirators.

The urgent need nationwide was highlighted in a recent CNN segment, where a Georgia hospital executive remarked that their facility was going through five months of protective gear every six days. The hospital had to resort to nurses sewing protective covers over N95 masks during their breaks to make them last longer. News followed that Deaconess, another facility in critical need, created a mask pattern and sewing tutorial video for home sewers.

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The video quickly went -- like, unfortunately, the disease that prompted it -- 'viral', and folks started making masks and sending them to Deaconess. Within days, they had enough for their own use and were sending the extras to other facilities in need.

Enter Summit residents Lacey Rzeszowski and Vicki Lederman who -- with the goal to get as many people as possible sewing fabric face masks to help meet the exponential need for personal protective gear for our health care providers -- formed a centralized system to promote greater efficiency and to coordinate the many independent efforts working on of getting supplies, making masks, and getting them to where they're needed most.

The 'Friends' Fabric Mask Assembly Line' has received significant support, but the scope and scale of the need are both ongoing and massive, with many more sewers and other volunteers needed to increase productivity and output. Organizers say that everyone can help, with people who don’t know how to sew able to source and order supplies, get the goods to the sewers, cut fabric, and pick up and deliver masks to where they’re most urgently needed.

To assist the effort, contact vickilederman@yahoo.com or visit the 'Assembly Line' sign-up genius link at signupgenius.com.