Innovative Mask Material Protects Home Healthcare Workers at Visiting Angels

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Visiting Angels West Springfield has been providing home care to seniors and disabled adults throughout the Pioneer Valley and surrounding areas since 1999. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Michele Anstett, the company’s CEO, had to work quickly to secure personal protective equipment (PPE) in order to continue providing care for clients.

According to the CDC, seniors ages 65 and older make up a high-risk population, making it even more important to protect client and caregiver well-being. However, many retailers quickly sold out of PPE, including surgical and N95 masks, making it difficult to secure a surplus of masks for daily use in the home-care setting.

As this shortage intensified in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, innovative ways to address the problem arose. In the University of Florida’s department of Anesthesiology, doctors identified a novel candidate material for making masks. Halyard H600 is a two-ply spun polypropylene — a double-layered, tightly woven material that cannot be penetrated by water, bacteria, and most particulates. This material comes in large sheets and is traditionally used for wrapping surgical instrument trays while they are sterilized. The material is typically thrown out in operation rooms before it comes into contact with any patients. Thus, repurposing it into masks gives this material new life — and has the potential to save lives.

Visiting Angels received a donation of 50 masks made from this repurposed material. Mercy Medical Center donated surplus Halyard H600 material to local volunteers, who then sewed it into masks and donated it to local healthcare facilities. These vital pieces of PPE help to provide extra protection to home-care workers and enable the continued essential care of elders in the community.

The time, talent, and innovation shown by volunteers locally and across the country has contributed significantly to the protection and care of elders throughout Western Mass. Visiting Angels thanks the local community for rising to meet this need and enabling continued essential care for clients.

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