Marshall-led Group Delivers 500 masks to Summers County Appalachian Regional Hospital

Special to HNN Provided by Marshall University

Huntington – The West Virginia Mask Army, a pop-up nonprofit making masks for health care professionals using furnace filters, delivered 500 masks to the Summers County Appalachian Regional Hospital in Hinton on Saturday, March 28. The masks were made in just over a week to bolster supplies in West Virginia in preparation for the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Suzanne Strait, a professor of biology at Marshall, has been joined by Dr. Hilary Brewster, an associate professor of English, and former students Dr. Rose Ayoob and Patricia Rogers in overseeing this organization, which operates on a hub model in order to maintain social distancing for the volunteers sewing masks. In about a week, the group has raised nearly $10,000 on GoFundMe, and it continues to take donations via PayPal and Venmo. Anyone who would like to volunteer to sew, manage a hub, deliver or donate should visit their website, https://sites.google.com/view/wv-mask-army/home.

SCARH is a small, 25-bed hospital that also houses a rural health clinic and serves a population with many senior citizens who are high risk. Theresa Sexton, a registered nurse, reached out to the organization via e-mail when her attempts to locate personal protective equipment  from other outlets failed.

Sexton has been picking up shifts to allow her colleagues to spend more time at home before the likely surge in patients and cases begins. Hospital administrators are also filling in with patient-care roles due to a shortage of staff and higher than expected volume.

Summers County is waiting for the results of 99 COVID-19 tests, which have an 11-day wait.

“I am so glad Summers reached out to us,” Strait said. “The people sewing our masks are working quickly to help the medical community all across the state. I love telling our volunteers that their efforts are having a direct, positive impact.”

Angelo Fioravante, supervisor for the Huntington Visitor Center who is currently working from home, drove five hours round-trip to make the delivery.

“I feel helpless,” he said. “I’m not a nurse or a doctor or someone who can sew a mask. But I was a guy with a free Saturday and a sturdy car. It felt good to do something. I wanted to help. It was a beautiful day for a drive.”

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