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NORTH ALABAMA – There is a shortage of personal protective equipment for health care professionals and first responders across the country.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened its minimum requirements for how personal protective equipment should be used in times of shortages.

The CDC has guidance on its website about how to work around a mask shortage. When no face masks are available, the website says for healthcare providers to use a bandana or scarf as a last resort to care for patients with COVID-19.

Community members across North Alabama are coming together to help combat this problem.

“The CDC has come out with a couple of different patterns, so the patterns we’re using are all recommended by the CDC,” said concerned citizen Sharon Fike.

Sharon Fike says while homemade masks are not ideal for medical professionals to use, if it came down to that or a bandana…

“They’re able to be sterilized. They are able to be reused,” said Fike.

It’s not just medical professionals that are facing shortages.

“Where our critical need lies in this end of the state is our first responders, especially our volunteer fire and rescue,” said Fike.

Fike is joining in on a statewide effort to make homemade cloth masks.

“They’re more for folks who don’t have the actual coronavirus but they may have something else that takes them to the hospital that we want to protect as much as we can,” said Fike.

The hope is that the medical-grade N95 masks can be saved for medical crews working on the front-lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, a virus President Trump says our country is at war with.

“That’s kind of the way we look at this. It’s a war, and we’re just helping the war effort,” said Fike.

Fike says she’s using four different things to make her at home masks: 100% cotton material, 100% cotton flannel backing, thread, and elastic. She hopes to start making masks with a pouch to add a filter in.

The CDC explains that using a cloth mask is a last resort option and not considered as personal protective equipment since their capability to protect health care providers is unknown.

The President has announced steps to address the nation’s dwindling supplies of protective equipment for health-care workers. He’s authorized the release of emergency stockpiles and is working with manufacturers to ramp up production in a wartime-like effort.