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LVHN Uses Innovative Approach to Extend the Life of Protective Masks

Plus, surgical wrap is recycled into useful item


Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) colleagues put their “crafting” skills to the test – and for a very good reason. With personal protective equipment shortages across the nation due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, LVHN decided to take an innovative approach to extend the use of N95 masks. These masks are used by caregivers as protection against the virus.

“There’s a sense of urgency as it’s been well documented that health care providers everywhere are running low on N95 respirator masks,” says Donald Hougendobler, Director, Environment and Sustainability, LVHN. “In the last 24 hours, our team has created a prototype, received approvals from LVHN Infection Control and Prevention and Public Safety and Emergency Management, and gathered supplies to construct mask covers.”

Reusing for a purpose

LVHN colleagues joined together at the School of Nursing building at Lehigh Valley Hospital–17th Street to construct mask coverings for surgical staff. They practiced social distancing to keep each other safe by setting up small working stations throughout the room.

The team used recycled surgical wrap, common blue sanitary sheets that protect operating room instruments before they’re used, and constructed coverings for N95 masks. They cut the blue sterile wrap into rectangular sheets, hole-punched, cut and threaded twine. One mask can be made every two minutes with just those few supplies.

Extending use of masks

These blue sterile wrap mask coverings greatly increase the lifespan of N95 respirator masks. “Using blue sterile wrap adds an extra barrier if put over the N95 mask and it will make them last a lot longer,” Hougendobler said. “This little solution [mask coverings] will give us peace of mind and allow us to protect our patients and colleagues.”

How you can help

Whatever your crafting skills may be from beginner to advanced, you also can help make personal protective equipment (PPE) for LVHN. If you enjoy sewing, you can make face masks using materials found at your local craft store. You will need tightly-woven, breathable fabric and some elastic banding to use for sewing. Click here for sewing instructions and additional information.

If sewing is not your specialty, you can still help us by donating any of the following materials that can be used to make face masks. We will get them to those who can sew face masks. Materials we need are:

  • Fabric bolts
  • Cut pieces of fabric
  • Swatches of fabric
  • Elastic used for sewing

Where to donate

If you sew masks or would like to donate materials, please place the items in a clearly marked bag or container and deliver them to 2024 Lehigh St., Allentown, Pa., Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–3 p.m.

Your generosity is appreciated by every person who works at LVHN. If you have questions, email us at

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