Woman spends time in isolation making special masks for health care workers

Posted at 3:49 PM, Apr 10, 2020

Sitting in her living room in Sharon, Massachusetts, Ellen Dirgins has found a way to keep her idle hands busy while in the midst of a nationwide epidemic.

Dirgins is a real estate agent who typically spends her days selling homes around the Boston region. While the coronavirus has slowed the current market to a crawl, work inside Dirgins’ home has suddenly sped up.

“I just kept seeing on the news that people were running out of masks,” she said via a FaceTime interview recently.

Across the country, doctors and nurses are desperate for N95 masks to help shield themselves from the spread of COVID-19. While Dirgins can’t manufacture those kinds of masks in her home, she has found a way to help, using the sewing machine she has had for years.

On YouTube, she found a pattern to make masks that have a special opening in the middle so that healthcare workers can insert their own filters. In the absence of N95 masks, many people have been using HEPA filters, vacuum bags and even A/C filters to try to keep the virus at bay.

So far, Dirgins has donated dozens of masks to local hospitals in Boston. But she says the simple fact doctors and nurse don’t have their own masks, is appalling.

“These people are putting themselves and their families in danger,” she said. “It’s really sad that people who are helping others don’t have the kind of protection they need. It’s awful.”

Still, Dirgins and others like her across the country who are sewing and donating masks hope those on the frontlines know their efforts are being appreciated.

“I hope they see the community is coming together to help them out, because they’re trying to help us,” she said.