Businesses, community members working to meet PPE demands locally, in the north
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Businesses and community members in Sioux Lookout have been working tirelessly to help provide personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks and face shields, to workers and residents locally and in northern communities.
Sioux-Hudson Literacy Council’s Discover Online Integrated Information Technology (DOI2T) program said the Glia project based out of London, Ontario, which seeks to provide medical supplies to impoverished locations, caught wind of their 3D printing capabilities and requested face shields to help meet PPE needs locally, in the north, and in southern Ontario.
“A team of doctors and an organization called the Glia project out of London, Ontario contacted us. There was word that we have a series of printers. They knew we had them and doctors wanted to solve this problem, so they came to us for it. It’s been going really well… Those doctors were mostly local but there’s a team in London and some people in Ottawa, and they wanted to solve the PPE issues up here, specifically in Sioux Lookout and north of us,” said Evan J., DOI2T program co-lead.
“We hooked up with IFNA (Independent First Nations Alliance), and now the majority of our prints are going to IFNA. We’ve also made them for anyone else in the community who has contacted us and wants them.
“At the Learning Centre we already had ten 3D printers and one laser cutter. Only one of the printers could print the material we needed, and the stuff we’re using is PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol-modified). It’s like a re-usable plastic, and it’s far more durable then the common PLA (Polylactic Acid) stuff… Because of that we had to get more printers. We ordered three, and now we have four printers running and we have two more printers coming. They have the ability to print hot enough to print this kind of material, so it’s good… If they’re working properly, they can spit out seven to eight (face shields) per day per unit,” he explained.
In a post on Facebook on April 23, the DOI2T program confirmed the amount of face shields they’ve made at that point and where they’re being distributed.
“More face shields are boxed up and heading out the door. So far we've made roughly 350 units, and they have been distributed and used in the following communities and/or by the following organizations:
- Muskrat Dam First Nation
- Whitesand First Nation
- Sandy Lake First Nation
- A pharmacy in Winnipeg
- A lab in Guelph
- The Sioux Lookout Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre
- Community Living Dryden-Sioux Lookout
- The Sioux Lookout Out of the Cold Shelter,” the Facebook post read.
Contact the DOI2T program by sending a message to their Facebook page, @DOI2T, to request face shields.
Residents and businesses in Sioux Lookout explained how they’ve been providing masks for families, workers, and other organizations. Along with demands for masks from the public, those who are making masks now have a demand for elastic.
“It started about three weeks ago. Before the whole push for masks occurred I thought, and more for fun than anything else, I tried to make masks for my family. We posted a picture online and then a friend of mine wanted some masks for his granddaughters in Toronto, so I shipped some off to him. Then his daughter requested 20 of them for Deer Lake. I didn’t have the heart to charge people for the masks. I thought if somebody wants a mask they should have one, so from there it turned into if people want to make a donation to Sioux Looks Out For Paws I’ll do them based on that or even no donation,” said Joan Dykes, Sioux Looks Out For Paws representative.
“Most people should have masks. If they need a mask I’m happy to provide it. In terms of the rescue, we can’t do any fundraising at this time, and yet we still have a number of animals in care who need to be fed, cat litter, vet bills keep going on so it really was a win-win for all of us… People can message me through Facebook if they need a mask.
“The issue now is there’s no elastic to be found… I’m hoping I may get some more. If people are still looking for masks I’m happy to take names, but I can’t do anything until I get more elastic,” said Dykes.
“I’ve been making masks since the beginning of April when people realized there was going to be a shortage… I did some for the hospital and I’m doing other organizations who have workers in the north… The higher the thread count of fabric the better the quality of the mask, so I’m using a product called batik and it is a higher density of cotton. I’m doing a special filter in the middle and they’re washable,” said Dori Hopko, Owner of Dori’s Sewing Studio.
“My top priority is supplying masks to the businesses and organizations that require them to keep their people safe, and anything we can do to help out the community… Being able to help supply our hospital and other community organizations is fantastic.
“Nobody can get elastic right now. It’s like toilet paper. I have fabric but I don’t have elastic right now, so I’m waiting for another shipment to come in,” said Hopko.
“I was taking huge orders (from organizations), and I think those are pretty much finished… I have a supply on hand. They can phone me (737-7447) and, if I have some, they can EMT me the money and I will put them on the curbside… All my masks are three-layer with high quality cotton. They are ten dollars each, but I’m not doing made-to-order at all,” said Hazel Mills, Owner of Serenity Quilts.
“I just felt that I was able to help in my small way. It felt wonderful to be able to help others during this time,” she said.
“Probably since the middle of March… Most of them have just gone to individuals or families. I’m still going, and I have enough fabric where I can probably make a mask for every person in Sioux Lookout. People can just message me at Quilted Treasures (on Facebook),” said Cheryl West, Owner of Quilted Treasures.
“I’m glad that I can help out in whatever way. I’ll keep doing it as long as there’s a need,” she said.
In a Facebook post on April 15 Drayton Cash and Carry confirmed, “New in store, made by Ingrid Cummings (my mom), fabric masks. $10.00 plus HST. Recommended cleaning - handwash in fabric detergent.”
According to Ontario.ca, “You may consider using a face covering (non-medical mask such as a cloth mask or bandana) to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in areas where physical distancing may be challenging or not possible, such as:
- public transit
- smaller grocery stores or
- when you are receiving essential services
Medical masks (surgical, medical procedure face masks and respirators like N95 masks) should be reserved for use by health care workers and first responders.”
“If you choose to use a face covering, you should:
- wash your hands immediately before putting it on and immediately after taking it off (practise good hand hygiene while you are wearing the face covering)
- make sure the face covering fits well around your nose and mouth
- avoid moving the mask around or adjusting it often
- avoid touching the covering while using it
- not share it with others”