Amid all the disarray surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic — all the school and business closures — one family is giving back by repairing surgical facemasks that are key for health workers to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Ruby Grimm, a medical doctor in Iredell Health System’s physician network, said that she noticed that Iredell Memorial Hospital’s N95 masks had damaged elastic, making them unusable.

See more photos at the bottom of this article

Grimm enlisted Roger Roark, a former surgeon, and his wife and former co-worker Annette Roark to repair the 450 damaged masks.

N95 masks are particulate filter respirators that are capable of filtering the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, Annette Roark said. In essence, they filter out particles too small to be captured by regular masks. The masks have been in demand since the outbreak, with some hospitals reporting a shortage, the Associated Press reported.

To fix the masks, Annette Roark said, they needed a large supply of elastic.

Starting with just six yards of it, they were able to gather more than a 100 yards, many from local quilters, to repair about 300 of the 450 masks so far.

“People really do want to help,” Annette Roark said. “It’s nice to have something good to think about when the news is so discouraging.”

She said that they have also made more than 40 masks out of fabric cotton for the community, specifically for those immuno-compromised and in hospice care, the most vulnerable people to COVID-19.

She said the cotton masks were not as effective as the N95 masks but that they can work to prevent spread and give people a peace of mind during the pandemic.

Annette and Roger Roark will continue to repair masks for Iredell Memorial Hospital until all 450 are usable again.

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