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'It shows the power of love': Georgia families assemble 3D printed face masks for hospital staff

More than a million people have visited the 3D mask blueprint site. The template itself has been downloaded in 20 countries.

CUMMING, Ga. — The NE Georgia health system has a new call for help: gowns. Right now, medical staff are going through as many as 7,000 in one day. If you have a sewing machine, or fabric to donate, here’s a link to sewing instructions and drop-off sites. Scroll to the bottom of this article for more ways to help.

It started with an orthodontist in Cumming who wondered how his 3D printer could help medical professionals running out of the traditional N95 masks.

“They were crying because they weren’t being given the proper equipment,” said Dr. Mark Causey, when we first interviewed him in March.

From that question blossomed a community as layered and dimensional as the masks themselves.

Dustry Skorich, an engineering high school teacher at Dawson County High School and visual arts professor John Mehlferber, helped Causey refine the design. They created templates to print the masks in different sizes for a better fit and created a clasp for a better seal around the filter material, which county’s career center would later end up processing with its laser cutter.

RELATED: 'Better than a bandanna, a scarf or a homemade mask': Ga. dentist creates 3D template to help mask shortage

Causey loaded that template on FiredByCorona.com, a web page he says has now been visited by more than a million people. The template itself has been downloaded in 20 different countries.

But he says, it’s what’s happening at home, in Northeast Georgia, that has him so excited.

The University of North Georgia agreed to donate the plastic and use of nearly three dozen 3D printers to ramp up production.

Volunteers at two churches, St. John Baptist Church and Gainesville First UMC, then gathered in small groups at meeting halls or around their family’s dinner table to literally assemble the vision.

“What we did is put the straps on, cut these down, put these on and then putting the piping in,” said Katie Bruner holding a mask, explaining what they’ve been asked to do.

Bruner is one of several parents working with their kids to assemble the masks.

“You’re so disconnected it’s kind of hard to… you’re watching everything and you feel like you can’t do anything to help. And so it gives some purpose for us and helps us feel connected to the community," explained Bruner. 

RELATED: Doctor makes 'last resort' ventilator with items from a hardware store

Credit: WXIA

In less than three weeks, more than 750 of those masks made their way to the Northeast Georgia Health System, where pastors in Hall County gathered to pray.

“It’s very heartwarming and it’s very humbling,” said COO Michael Covert as medical professionals gathered around, eager to try the masks.

Covert says the systems four hospitals are treating nearly 132 patients as of Friday with COVID-19, about a third of those on ventilators. They have traditional N95 masks right now but are stocking up on key supplies preparing for a peak in patients. 

“Most likely the middle of May and the numbers will be significant," said Covert. 

What’s helpful about the masks is that the base can be disinfected and the filter swapped out, so they can be used over and over.

Business Development Director Robert Turner was the one tasked with finding a backup mask supply. When he saw Causey’s design he jumped, creating the network that helped make them a reality.

“There hasn’t been one person that hasn’t willingly taken on the challenge of putting these things together and help us come up with a solution,” said Turner. “If it wasn’t donating material, it was donating time.”

There’s still concern about supplies, but the hospital says this has helped put some minds at ease.

RELATED: Flooring company creating personal protective equipment for healthcare workers

Credit: WXIA

“It’s actually been a morale booster for our staff and for our physicians,” said Covert.

And what about the man who wondered just weeks ago if all of this could be done?

“I’m speechless really,” said Causey standing just feet away from the boxes of masks donated to the hospital. “It shows the power of love.”

LOOKING FOR MORE WAYS TO HELP?

Dusty Skorich is also working with the North Georgia Physicians Group to provide face shields using old overhead transparency slides. The Dawson County School District was able to provide enough slides to make 500 face shields, but more are needed. 

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus.  We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.  

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information. 

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