Bright barriers

Submitted Photo A few of the masks received by Adams Regional Emergency Medical Services show the range of fabric designs employed by local crafters, who are being asked to make and them to help keep ambulance personnel safe during the pandemic.

Anyone who can sew can help keep ambulance personnel safe, according to a post on the Adams Regional Emergency Medical Services (AREMS) Facebook page.

“Right now your service as a crafter is needed” to create cloth face masks as emergency supplements to current supplies, the post reads.

The post links to a pattern posted online, www.craftpassion.com/face-mask-sewing-pattern/, and says anyone who makes 10 or more masks can arrange for pickup outside their residence by calling 717-476-3697.

By Tuesday, AREMS had received approximately 100 such masks, Chief Eric Zaney said. The cloth used features “all kinds of designs” from solid colors to flowers and horses, he said.

The handcrafted masks will be “truly a last resort option for us” if shortages occur, and would almost certainly be used on patients rather than paramedics, he said.

Normal procedure is for emergency medical services (EMS) personnel to don N95 masks when dealing with patients who could be positive for COVID-19, Zaney said. N95 masks bear that designation because they block 95 percent of airborne particles above a certain size, he said.

EMS personnel and Adams County 9-1-1 dispatchers are screening for factors such as fever, shortness of breath, and recent foreign travel, Zaney said.

Patients receive a regular surgical mask. If those run out, the handmade masks would provide at least “minor protection,” Zaney said.

“Our staff is healthy and we want to keep it that way” so AREMS can keep operating five ambulances on a 24-hour schedule, Zaney said.

AREMS is also distributing masks to other area agencies, ranging from fire companies to police departments and the Adams County coroner’s office, Zaney said. Providing N95 masks involves an exacting fitting process, in which mask users are exposed to a “bitter spray” to make sure unfiltered air isn’t leaking in due to use of the wrong size mask, he said.

“We have to be prepared for anything” as the pandemic unfolds, Zaney said.

AREMS was fortunate in stocking up on N95 masks and gloves last year before the pandemic, Zaney said. Orders have been placed for more items, but orders that are usually filled in a day or two now take a month or two or longer, he said. He praised Adams County Director of Emergency Services Warren Bladen’s successful effort in obtaining supplies through the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

AREMS is also welcoming donations of other items.

For example, Zaney said, Gettysburg Campground on Fairfield Road donated boxes of N95 and surgical masks it had on hand. AREMS is thanking donors on its Facebook page, he said.

As a nonprofit organization, AREMS is also receiving monetary donations, Zaney said.

Call volumes, and thus revenues, are down because inter-facility ambulance transfers have “all come to a halt,” Zaney said.

Rather than sending patients to hospital and medical office visits, skilled care facilities such as nursing homes are sheltering their patients in place, which is “the proper thing to do,” Zaney said.

AREMS is not alone in seeking donations.

Northeast Adams Fire & Emergency Medical Services (NAFEMS) is seeking N95 masks.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, we are already finding some difficulty sourcing N95 respirators. Shortages of PPE have become rather common nationwide,” NAFEMS posted Sunday on its Facebook page.

“Do you have some that you aren’t using? If so, our front line fire and EMS personnel could use them now...and in the coming weeks,” the post read.

“Drop off any donations (while maintaining appropriate social distance) to our East Berlin station,” the post reads. The station is at 101 E. Locust St.

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