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Tybee firefighters make face masks to help ease shortage in COVID-19 battle

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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) — The staff at the Tybee Island Fire Department have been hard at work since Wednesday making masks for those that need them most.

The dedicated team is one of several groups working to fill the nationwide mask shortage triggered by frightened Americans concerned about their respiratory health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For people that aren’t in the medical industry, they don’t really need to run out and buy all the N95 masks up, those really need to be for our medical workers, for our hospitals, for our first responders,” Capt. Matt Harrell, the fire department’s interim fire chief, told WSAV.com NOW.

“We’re able to get the proper masks we need to run calls, but I know for a lot of people, they’re really worried about this, so we just wanted to give them something to give them some kind of respiratory protection during this time,” Harrell said.

Since Wednesday, his team has been following instructions from a YouTube video sent to them by a Tybee Island resident, who was making masks of her own for her mother, a hospital employee.

There was some trial and error with getting the sizing right at first, but eventually, the firefighters got the hang of it.

“We were able to make around six yesterday, and we hope to make many more today,” Harrell said.

They’re using never-before-worn t-shirts leftover from a previous fundraiser to create the first batch of masks.

Harrell said Tybee’s campground employees and community members have also offered them more shirts to repurpose.

“If we are going to use any older t-shirts, because I know we’ve had people reach out from the community that they have old t-shirts, we’re going to make sure that those all get properly washed and deconned before we give them out to anybody,” Harrell said.

Since the fire department staff started the project, they’ve had several people respond to their Facebook post asking how they can lend a hand.

“We’ve got some templates that I’m going to drop off to some people today, and one person is using it to teach their kids how to sew since they’re not in school right now,” Harrell said.

“Other people are just wanting to chip in and do everything they can for our community,” he said.

The interim fire chief says his firefighters are willing to help anyone who needs the masks, on Tybee and beyond.

“We have a nursing home here, we have all the restaurants here and they’re concerned, too, because they’re already having to go to takeout only, and they just want to make sure they’re doing everything they can to provide safe work for them and safe deliveries,” Harrell said.

He says anyone who’s interested in contributing to the mask-masking project can reach him directly at MHarrell@cityoftybee.org, 678-469-0387 or contact the Tybee Island Fire Department on their Facebook page.

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