Local veterans creating masks, educating public on proper use
Leading and helping in times of great need has always been a strong suit for VFW Post 4265 veterans Ron Epplin, and Jeremy and Cynthia Chambers.
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the military veterans are stepping up to push the community to not only make their own masks and wear them, but also donate them to those in need.
“My daughter is a hospital nurse in San Diego, so obviously I’m a worried father,” Ron Epplin said. “I’m trying to not show [that I’m worried], but at the same time I’m staying busy for their cause.”
Epplin has taken it upon himself to try and educate as many residents as possible when it comes to the proper masks to wear. He, along with Jeremy and Cynthia Chambers, have passed out fliers with mask patterns on them, showing residents how to make their own homemade masks to protect themselves as much as possible from the virus, while also coming up with a way to push residents to make as many masks as possible to donate to front-line workers, such as doctors and nurses at Memorial Regional Health.
Epplin and the Chambers’ have been on top of the mask issue for the last few weeks, but in light of Governor Jared Polis’s ask to the public to wear masks when out in public, the effort by the local veterans has only doubled.
The idea of requiring everyone to wear masks without having a guideline is difficult,” Jeremy Chambers, a former U.S. Army medic, said. “There’s so many variations and ideas out there that can protect us. Gov. Polis, I think, has the right idea, but I think it’s misguided. I think it’s almost like a false sense of security, as opposed to specific types of masks to help with filtering.
“There just needs to be a consensus of what style to wear,” Chambers added.
Last Friday, Gov. Polis asked state residents to wear cotton masks out in public. According to Chambers, cloth or cotton masks will help protect somewhat, but they’re nowhere near as good as the n95 masks.
Fortunately for area residents, the work done by Epplin and the Chambers prior to Polis’s ask has the people in Moffat County well prepared when it comes to the masks one can make at home.
“My wife found the pattern online and it was approved to wear at Memorial Regional Hospital (where Cynthia is a nurse); basically, she’s able to wear it in conjunction with an n95 mask,” Chambers said. “The design is made out of cloth and utilizes vacuum filters. You can cut squares to put inside the mask. Now, I don’t know how much protection you get from those in comparison to the n95, but it’s certainly better than wearing a bandana or an old t-shirt, or going without one.”
Chambers added that he’s seen people walking around wearing masks improperly, or wearing dust makes, which really doesn’t provide much protection against the virus-laden droplets sneezed or coughed by sick people.
“It creates a false sense of security, just having something over your nose and mouth,” Chambers said.
The masks that Chambers and Epplin are pushing in the public provide more protection than just a t-shirt or a dusk mask though, which should help residents worried about going out in public without a mask.
“With the way that they were designed, there’s a cone shape for the top at the nose, and a cone stitch in the bottom for the chin; that helps with sealing around the face,” Chambers said. “That said, the key is to have the filter insert in the cloth. The filter is meant for microbials. If anything, they’ll help keep others safe from you, better than just say a bandana.
“We’re just taking precautions a little bit more because we have the filter insert. I’m not saying it’s going to be 100 percent cure-all, but it’s the best we could come up with from home. The pattern we put in the paper, it’s in an evolutionary stage. As more research and more materials become available, the better they’ll become. The good thing is people are learning more about masks,” Chambers added.
While the cloth masks are one thing, Epplin and his team at the VFW have set up a donation bin at City Market for 2 Liter plastic bottles in hopes of receiving enough donations to create face shields for medical workers.
“I was just surfing online looking for something, and I found someone doing this with 2 liter bottles,” Epplin said. “I called the fire department and they cleared it, saying it was a good idea.”
The amount of bottles donated hasn’t been enough to create much of an impact right away, but if Epplin can receive enough donations, it would allow him to build up a bit of a reserve in case medical workers saw a shortage.
“The size of 2 liter would only cover just above the eyes to below the nose, so people would still have to wear a mask,” Epplin said. “We’re waiting for it to build up. We’ve had nothing at all for about a week, so I made a sample showing before and after what the mask would look like, and then we started to receive some donations at the drop-off. We probably have a dozen or 20 there at this point, so we have some to work with, but we need more.
Epplin added that the curvature of the bottle would fit naturally to the face.
Just another example of locals stepping up to help in a time of need.
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As COVID-19 vaccinations become more readily available to Colorado residents, Moffat County Public Health continues to provide vaccinations throughout the community.