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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Oklahomans are contributing much-needed medical masks as hospitals run short

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Tiffany Cunningham saw the call for help on Facebook, dusted off her old sewing machine and got to work.

It didn’t take long to find a pattern and dimensions; one piece of fabric measuring 8” x 14”, two strips of fabric measuring 1.75”, Two pieces of 1/4” width elastic, stitched together just the right way to cover and protect the face.

“I had not sewn in years so I was a little rusty,” she said. “But I eventually got a few done and was feeling pretty good about it.”

Across the country, healthcare providers are running out of supplies while battling COVID-19. In particular, hospitals are running out of the medical safety masks that could prevent doctors and nurses from contracting the upper-respiratory disease themselves.

Hospitals, doctor’s clinics and nursing homes across the country have asked for anyone that is able to sew cloth masks. While they don’t offer the same protection as medical-grade masks, they are far better than no protection at all.

Cunningham said she was watching the news while working her job at Tinker Air Force Base remotely when she started thinking about medical workers putting their lives on the line without the proper equipment. A crafter herself, Cunningham said she knew it was a problem she could actually help with.

“We help because there is a need and that’s what we in Oklahoma do,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham posted her first few masks on Facebook and got an immediate and overwhelming response.

There were some people who messaged her asking for their own or for friends and family. But there were messages from a few local nurses begging for her to send masks their way and even more people asking how they could help too.

Cunningham started a Facebook group called the “The OKC Area Facemask Project” and was joined by dozens of other sewers, quilters, stitchers and needlework friends who immediately got to work creating the protective masks.

“It’s just important to me that we contribute where we can,” Cunningham said. “My heart goes to all the people in nursing homes and health care providers who are battling this daily. They are exposed to all sorts of things and so anything I can do to help, I will.”

In just a few short days, the group has made more than 100 masks, with Cunningham making close to 30 herself. They are packaging them up and dropping them off at nursing homes and hospitals in the metro.

Cunnigham said the group continues to grow.

Norman Regional Health System said on Wednesday it had received more than 350 masks since asking for the public to make them over the weekend.

Most of the donors asked to remain anonymous and donated just a few at a time, giving them to the hospital as fast as they can make them.

A spokeswoman for Norman Regional said all donated masks will be used by clinicians seeing regular appointments. But it does free up medical masks for coronavirus related testing and treatment.

Norman Public Schools also donated most of its leftover supplies to Norman Regional on Wednesday as face masks, gloves and hand santizer and cleaning supplies were given to the hospital to help aid in the fight against coronavirus.

Across the state others have also started to help with the mask shortage.

Candace Neeley’s 13-year-old daughter, Addisyn, has damaged lungs after severe infection due to pneumonia two years ago.

Neeley, 37, was messaged or tagged by friends in numerous posts on social media asking for people to make masks.

Motivated to keep her daughter safe and healthy, Neeley got to work, making 80 masks and has the material for 30 more. Neeley has been making them in unique designs and patterns, including both OU and OSU themed ones.

She’s been sending them all over to friends, family and strangers for free, just asking for people to cover the cost of shipping and maybe a donation for more material.

“Obviously I want to make sure people are safe and comfortable,” Neeley said. “But I feel God has given me this talent and blessed me in this way I could never imagine.

“I want people to feel love and comfort too.”

Related Photos
<strong>Candace Neeley makes a cloth mask to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Neeley is donating the masks to friends, family and strangers. 
  
 PHOTO PROVIDED</strong>

Candace Neeley makes a cloth mask to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Neeley is donating the masks to friends, family and strangers. PHOTO PROVIDED

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6735f4eccbd54bef8e3123315c1b1a3b.jpg" alt="Photo - Candace Neeley makes a cloth mask to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Neeley is donating the masks to friends, family and strangers. PHOTO PROVIDED " title=" Candace Neeley makes a cloth mask to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Neeley is donating the masks to friends, family and strangers. PHOTO PROVIDED "><figcaption> Candace Neeley makes a cloth mask to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Neeley is donating the masks to friends, family and strangers. PHOTO PROVIDED </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-f22da9fec7e972040b40f03593754555.jpg" alt="Photo - Stroud's Candace Neeley made these masks for people that reached out to her via Facebook. [Photo provided] " title=" Stroud's Candace Neeley made these masks for people that reached out to her via Facebook. [Photo provided] "><figcaption> Stroud's Candace Neeley made these masks for people that reached out to her via Facebook. [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5d768824094d28803f64afed28f1b44f.jpg" alt="Photo - Making a mask MATERIALS • main fabric - at least 8” x 12” • lining fabric - at least 8” x 12” • 26” elastic cord or ” wide elastic band FABRIC NOTES • Jersey (not super thin weight) allows for a versatile fit and minimal finishing of seams (which means quicker production!) • If using a woven cotton fabric with any pattern, orient it horizontally. • Masks can be washed and sterilized, so laundering or drying fabric beforehand will prevent shrinkage. " title=" Making a mask MATERIALS • main fabric - at least 8” x 12” • lining fabric - at least 8” x 12” • 26” elastic cord or ” wide elastic band FABRIC NOTES • Jersey (not super thin weight) allows for a versatile fit and minimal finishing of seams (which means quicker production!) • If using a woven cotton fabric with any pattern, orient it horizontally. • Masks can be washed and sterilized, so laundering or drying fabric beforehand will prevent shrinkage. "><figcaption> Making a mask MATERIALS • main fabric - at least 8” x 12” • lining fabric - at least 8” x 12” • 26” elastic cord or ” wide elastic band FABRIC NOTES • Jersey (not super thin weight) allows for a versatile fit and minimal finishing of seams (which means quicker production!) • If using a woven cotton fabric with any pattern, orient it horizontally. • Masks can be washed and sterilized, so laundering or drying fabric beforehand will prevent shrinkage. </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-fc9664b5a9b7a49a93b5ff9bdf7aad97.jpg" alt="Photo - Tiffany Cunningham, in Midwest City, who has been making masks all week at home and donating them to nursing homes and hospitals. Wednesday, March 25, 2020. [Photo by Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Tiffany Cunningham, in Midwest City, who has been making masks all week at home and donating them to nursing homes and hospitals. Wednesday, March 25, 2020. [Photo by Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Tiffany Cunningham, in Midwest City, who has been making masks all week at home and donating them to nursing homes and hospitals. Wednesday, March 25, 2020. [Photo by Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7d7768a7c01befa7df2405b951a4b262.jpg" alt="Photo - Tiffany Cunningham, in Midwest City, who has been making masks all week at home and donating them to nursing homes and hospitals. Wednesday, March 25, 2020. [Photo by Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Tiffany Cunningham, in Midwest City, who has been making masks all week at home and donating them to nursing homes and hospitals. Wednesday, March 25, 2020. [Photo by Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Tiffany Cunningham, in Midwest City, who has been making masks all week at home and donating them to nursing homes and hospitals. Wednesday, March 25, 2020. [Photo by Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9297fd9cfe89099507c0ead0c334fcf0.jpg" alt="Photo - Tiffany Cunningham, in Midwest City, who has been making masks all week at home and donating them to nursing homes and hospitals. Wednesday, March 25, 2020. [Photo by Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Tiffany Cunningham, in Midwest City, who has been making masks all week at home and donating them to nursing homes and hospitals. Wednesday, March 25, 2020. [Photo by Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Tiffany Cunningham, in Midwest City, who has been making masks all week at home and donating them to nursing homes and hospitals. Wednesday, March 25, 2020. [Photo by Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-82af2431dede52b444e308239b88017f.jpg" alt="Photo - Lacie Morgan, left, and her children, fifth-grader Paizley Morgan, 11, sixth-grader Sheckler Morgan, 12, and fourth-grader Journey Morgan hold signs as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title="Lacie Morgan, left, and her children, fifth-grader Paizley Morgan, 11, sixth-grader Sheckler Morgan, 12, and fourth-grader Journey Morgan hold signs as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Lacie Morgan, left, and her children, fifth-grader Paizley Morgan, 11, sixth-grader Sheckler Morgan, 12, and fourth-grader Journey Morgan hold signs as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b4a213153291a9a982e9b03d2902ba48.jpg" alt="Photo - Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-50d735cd06a9a4e6f1430a6d88f8aefb.jpg" alt="Photo - Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b337a06caf464d3d1800f35a8fa6ecb0.jpg" alt="Photo - Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-a47dd92f7b197a7543bfaf149af07d21.jpg" alt="Photo - Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-95a7b4b5fa7f7373030c8d026070a72c.jpg" alt="Photo - Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5211526f22948b0714e1d2a51c1b838c.jpg" alt="Photo - Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-85b7586be4d800eb6ee68bc054f16cef.jpg" alt="Photo - Oakridge Elementary students first -grader Isaac Madden 6, left, fifth-grader Emma Madden, 11, third-grader Evan Madden, 8, along with their three-year-old brother Hudson Madden hold signs as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Oakridge Elementary students first -grader Isaac Madden 6, left, fifth-grader Emma Madden, 11, third-grader Evan Madden, 8, along with their three-year-old brother Hudson Madden hold signs as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oakridge Elementary students first -grader Isaac Madden 6, left, fifth-grader Emma Madden, 11, third-grader Evan Madden, 8, along with their three-year-old brother Hudson Madden hold signs as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-93f04a90d4550399c18be715df303f4d.jpg" alt="Photo - Vehicle line up at Oakridge Elementary before starting a faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Vehicle line up at Oakridge Elementary before starting a faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Vehicle line up at Oakridge Elementary before starting a faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ee355cc3d8701f28e2f423b2c3148a4c.jpg" alt="Photo - Cars are decorated as they wait to start an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan in neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Cars are decorated as they wait to start an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan in neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Cars are decorated as they wait to start an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan in neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-007d247df661b27ea9adc6f060beba98.jpg" alt="Photo - Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Families wave as an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan drives through their neighborhood around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9f39f51696786d2c31091d86a4dace28.jpg" alt="Photo - Michelle Flipski, a kindergarten teacher assistant hands kindergarten teacher Lindsey Scott poster baord to decorate before an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Michelle Flipski, a kindergarten teacher assistant hands kindergarten teacher Lindsey Scott poster baord to decorate before an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Michelle Flipski, a kindergarten teacher assistant hands kindergarten teacher Lindsey Scott poster baord to decorate before an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-23eb9edf2c50e10b27299d32b792ea36.jpg" alt="Photo - Julie Rutledge, a secretary Oakridge Elementary, waits in a car before an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Julie Rutledge, a secretary Oakridge Elementary, waits in a car before an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Julie Rutledge, a secretary Oakridge Elementary, waits in a car before an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-648fad880c25a92b97e2d3ce6f7c446c.jpg" alt="Photo - Michelle Flipski, a kindergarten teacher assistant, gets in her car before starting an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Michelle Flipski, a kindergarten teacher assistant, gets in her car before starting an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Michelle Flipski, a kindergarten teacher assistant, gets in her car before starting an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-eb68d5d07605bb00aa45396f7eb357f2.jpg" alt="Photo - Noah Garvie, 6, an Oakridge Elementary kindergarten student, holds a sign as he waits for an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]" title="Noah Garvie, 6, an Oakridge Elementary kindergarten student, holds a sign as he waits for an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Noah Garvie, 6, an Oakridge Elementary kindergarten student, holds a sign as he waits for an Oakridge Elementary faculty caravan through neighborhoods around the Moore school, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure>
Adam Kemp

Adam Kemp is a news and health reporter for The Oklahoman. He grew up in Oklahoma City before attending Oklahoma State University. Read more ›

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