According to a press release from Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, Mercy is asking its employees and the community to wear masks.

The medical center is encouraging its employees, and the community, to wear a mask at all times when outside the home. According to the release, "cloth masks are a first line of defense in slowing down the spread of COVID-19 by helping to shield an individual’s droplets from infecting those around them."

Dr. Timothy Quinn, Mercy’s executive vice president and chief of clinical operations, stated “We’d encourage the community to support one another, as well, by making masks for family members, friends and neighbors. As a community, we are at a critical time in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Our goal is to create a wave of support for each other in the community by asking everyone to wear a mask.” Quinn goes on to add that masking is one more measure that we can take to stop the spread of the virus, along with social distancing and hand washing.

Sewing volunteers have stepped up to make thousands of homemade masks for healthcare organizations in the area. As part of Mercy's "Step Up, Mask Up" initiative, they are making these homemade masks available to "employees and patient visitors, as they arrive" beginning on Tuesday, March 31. Anyone receiving a mask is asked to follow sanitary procedures to select, wear and launder them. These masks are appropriate for low-risk situations and not to be used as personal protective equipment for staff taking care of ill patients.

Continued donations of cloth masks are welcomed and can be dropped off in the collection box at Mercy’s 10th St. entrance, located at 701 10th St. SE in Cedar Rapids. Drop-off hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

If you wish to make a mask, you can download a pattern and instructions HERE. For questions about the masks, contact Isaiah Corbin in Mercy’s Volunteer Office at icorbin@mercycare.org.

Every little bit helps when it comes to protecting ourselves and preventing the spread of this virus. Stay home if you can, follow the guidelines to protect yourself and your family, and help protect others. As Mercy says "Step Up, Mask Up!" Check out the images below for how you can sew your own facemask.