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A tight-knit army in Tucson fights COVID-19 with their sewing machines

Sewing more than 4,000 medical masks a day
Posted at 5:31 AM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 11:24:34-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — A local sewing group is calling all sewers in Tucson to be part of their army to help first responders.

Mending Souls Tucson is a nonprofit that sews items for local charities, but everything changed recently with the coronavirus.

"When we got the call from the hospitals a couple weeks ago saying look we love all the handmaid things you make us, but right now all hands on deck, we need you to work with this material," One of the members of Mending Souls Michelle Don-Carlos said.

They're making masks for seven different hospitals around Tucson, but not just with any material.

New Research from the University of Florida found that the use of Halyard H600 Two-Ply Spun Polypropylene material, used to wrap surgical instruments in, is 99.9% effective in blocking particles from viruses.

This is 4% more than N95 masks, according to Bruce Spiess, M.D., a professor of anesthesiology in the UF College of Medicine, who made that calculation based on the manufacturer’s specifications.

UF Health hospital administrators and infection control experts have given him approval to proceed with the project. UF Health officials noted the masks, which are not certified as an N95 mask and are not intended to replace the N95, will give the health care system future capacity if there is a critical shortage of N95 masks.

The Halyard material, which comes in 4-by-4-foot sheets, is typically discarded after surgical instrument trays are unwrapped and before coming into contact with patients.

Mending Sews is getting the material from hospitals to make masks. On average, they're able to make more than 4,000 masks a day and 12,000 a week with their army of 580 people, which they're hoping to grow.

"This is truly for the love of Tucson for those that are taking care of us," Don-Carlos said. "We got your back. We are taking care of you too. There is an army behind you. You’re not alone, and you’re not going to die on our watch if we have something to say about it."

The Mending Souls volunteers hand out the designs, legal constant forms, pattern layout and material in a drive-thru line to practice social distancing.

The lines are at Anshei Israel Congregation Parking Lot (west side) at 12 p.m. and Tucson Mall Food Court (north side) Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

When a person arrives, they're asked to show their drivers license through their window, so the volunteers can check it out.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, the volunteers deliver the masks to the hospitals.

They're looking for more people to volunteer and help sew, deliver, cut, or drive. If interested, reach out to

The material used is assigned to a specific hospital, but Don-Carlos said are being generous to donate the extra once their staff is covered.

If you work for a medical facility and need masks, reach out to the Mask Donation Request List at

"One of the ladies coming through the drive-thru said 'we always knew that the ones with the sewing machines would end up saving the world,'" Don-Carlos said.