Protective mask-making sewing deskPeople in the U of G community with sewing skills are making protective masks at home.

With the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) personnel continuing to provide emergency animal care during the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers with sewing skills are making masks to give them added protection and prevent the spread of the virus.

In a joint initiative between OVC and the United Steelworkers Local 4120, new surgical drape material – highly suitable for masks – has been provided to University and community members willing to make the items.

“The response to the initiative has been outstanding,” said Prof. Stephanie Nykamp, OVC associate dean, clinical program.

An initial call for mask makers attracted staff, faculty, family members, friends and members of community sewing groups.

“It really is extraordinary to see our community coming together,” Nykamp said. “I am very proud of my entire team and how they have handled themselves through this situation, and their desire to help others.”

She said the animal care performed at OVC’s Health Sciences Centre (HSC) often involves close contact between personnel. Employees have been given face shields for their protection.

Surgical masks provide additional protection but are in short supply. OVC is conserving masks by using them strictly for surgical purposes. Sewn cloth masks are intended to provide additional protection for HSC workers.

“OVC has provided people with sewing skills the material to make masks at home for any employees who want one,” said Sarah Whelan, vice-president of Local 4120, which represents administrative and technical staff at U of G, including those at OVC. “I think these initiatives show that in the toughest of times, people can come together for the greater good.”

Whelan added it is inspiring to see so many coming together for the good of all. She said a quote from the American author Helen Keller rings especially true at this time: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Anyone willing to make masks is asked to use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended pattern.

“We hope to get about 300 masks as soon as possible,” Nykamp said. OVC had just 35 masks available on Wednesday but the supply increased to 59 by Friday.

Participants can drop off masks at the OVC Companion Animal Reception Desk at 28 College Ave. W.

“If we end up with more masks than we can use in our hospital, we will share with others on campus that may have a need, with our health-care partners and the community,” Nykamp said.