Letha Bailey has been sewing for most of her life, mostly to make clothes for family members or in sewing factories. She didn't expect she would one day be making face masks for the nurses and staff members she sees every day.

Bailey mask 2

Letha Bailey, a resident at Limestone Manor, sews cloth masks for staff and others at the assisted living facility. Bailey has been sewing clothes and other items for decades, but this is the first time she's tried to make cloth masks for medical professionals.

"I hope I can do a lot with them," she told The News Courier on Friday. "I hope they can do what they're supposed to."

Bailey is a resident at Limestone Manor. When she moved in about a year ago, she brought her sewing machines with her and has kept the hobby throughout her residency. She was making shorts for staff member Brittany Johnson's daughter when Johnson mentioned the face masks.

"I brought her a mask so she could see how they were made," Johnson said, "and then she started making them for us."

The cloth masks can't protect against COVID-19 the way an N95 mask can, but it's an option more and more people are considering as a precaution during daily activity. Even at Athens-Limestone Hospital, employees were advised they cannot use the cloth masks during a procedure that normally requires a regular surgical mask, but they can use them when walking in hallways, in close contact with coworkers or in patient rooms that do not require specific personal protective equipment.

"The staff is doing an excellent job in conserving PPE, and the use of cloth masks can help conserve in some situations," reads a letter to employees from the hospital's chief of staff.

Cheryl Johnson of 3 Hens and A Chick Quilt Shop said they've been working with crafters throughout Limestone County to make and distribute masks. The masks must be made of elastic and 100% cotton fabric. The quilt shop, located on U.S. 31 in Athens, has a few patterns available, but Cheryl Johnson said there are also plenty of options available online.

"They're very easy to make and it doesn't take much fabric or time," she said.

One woman donated 40 to the quilt shop, which plans to get them to ALH. Cheryl Johnson said anyone else who wants to make or donate facemasks can contact the store at 256-771-2040 or through Facebook.

"There's a need out there," she said. "We have a lot of quilters and a lot of sewers that are very generous with their time. ... It just helps everybody all the way around."

Bailey mask

Letha Bailey, a resident at Limestone Manor, holds up a cloth mask she made. While staff has access to N95 masks if needed, these can provide protection during other activities and help some medical professionals conserve personal protective equipment.


Bailey agreed. She's seen news reports of shortages in other areas, and she's proud to have made masks that, if nothing else, keep the people she sees every day looking stylish in quarantine.

"This has been something we're facing that we haven't faced before," Bailey said. "If I can help, that's all I want to do."

Those who wish to donate cloth masks to ALH should contact Felicia Lambert at 256-233-9290. Limestone Manor and ALH have said employees are not experiencing a shortage of N95 masks or other PPE at this time.

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