An ‘all hands’ approach: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds asks Iowans to sew masks for health-care workers

During Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ daily coronavirus press conference, she called upon Iowans to help produce homemade cloth masks amid a national shortage of medical equipment.


Joseph Cress

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during her first Condition of the State address in the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Jan. 9, 2018.

Charles Peckman, Senior Reporter

Gov. Kim Reynolds is calling on Iowans to utilize their time at home to produce homemade cloth masks for the state’s health-care workers amid a national shortage of personal protective equipment.

“Now, I’m also asking for your help,” Reynolds said during her daily press conference Monday, addressing Iowans watching the stream.  “If you can sew, we need your time and talent to produce fabric face masks to protect our frontline workers.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health has issued guidelines for limited mask reuse, and to use homemade cloth masks only if no commercially made personal protective equipment is available and only if used in combination with a face shield. A cloth pattern is available online at the IDPH website.

Her request for homemade face masks comes at a time when Iowa had pending orders of over 2 million surgical masks, 500,000 N95 masks, and over 500,000 hospital gowns. As of Sunday, she added, 153 deliveries of PPE have been made to all 99 counties.

As the nation faces a staggering shortage of PPE, Reynolds said it is up to Iowans to fill in holes created by overwhelmed supply chains.

“Every state and health-care facility in the nation needs the same PPE that we do and all of them are placing orders at the same frequency that we are,” she said. “That’s why, as I’ve said before, we’re taking an all hands-on approach, and it makes us work even harder to find more solutions.”

Facing a room of reporters — and the the state — she announced two additional COVID-19-related deaths and the virus’ spread to 56 counties, but said that there is light at the end of the tunnel, even if that tunnel seems distant.

“Today starts the fourth week since Iowa’s first coronavirus cases were confirmed,” she said. “The reality is that the end is not yet in sight…the significant mitigation steps that we have taken in Iowa are aimed at [President Trump’s] same goal  and we continue to assess our actions on a daily basis. For now, we must adjust to a new normal.”

This ‘new normal,’ according to data presented by Reynolds at Monday’s press conference, includes the aforementioned deaths; both patients, who were older than 80 years old, brings Iowa’s total to six. Reynolds also said there are 88 new cases in the state.

Currently in Iowa, 51 patients are hospitalized, 424 people have tested positive, and a total of 6,162 negative tests have been administered.

When asked about giving authority to Iowa’s communities to issue shelter-in-place orders, Reynolds said she is not considering giving that authority at this time, nor is she recommending issuing a statewide stay-at-home order. As President Trump’s guidelines for social distancing and shelter-in-place are announced this week, she added, her recommendations will reflect those of the President.

Reynolds applauded companies such as Fab Lab in Iowa City are stepping up to produce face shields for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. These partnerships, she added, are invaluable during this time of need.

“The ingenuity and generosity of these partners will enable us to supplement our supply chain and better support the needs of Iowa’s healthcare system and healthcare providers at this critical time,” she said.

Reynolds also declared an outbreak at Heritage Specialty Care, a rehabilitation and long-term care center, and said there are currently 21 cases at the facility. Linn County is the first county in Iowa to surpass Johnson County in total cases, with Linn County at 71 positive cases and Johnson County at 70.