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'It's come to this': Orangeburg pediatrician shares mask-making tips

Times & Democrat - 3/24/2020

Mar. 24--Longtime Orangeburg pediatrician Dr. Tracy Macpherson took to her sewing machine over the weekend.

Her project? Making washable, reusable face masks.

Masks are a type of personal protective equipment, also called PPE by the medical community, and they're necessary to prevent the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.

"It's come to this, homemade washable face masks. CDC 'approved' as a last-resort alternative to traditional PPE," Macpherson posted on her Facebook page over the weekend.

Late last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced looser guidelines about what may be used as PPE. Hospitals worldwide are running low on the preferred and much safer N95 respirator masks.

Macpherson said, "I went into my boxes of stuff from when my son was little and found a few things" such as cotton printed fabrics with pictures of lizards and other fabrics.

She looked up a few do-it-yourself videos on YouTube and settled on a, "simple-to-make recipe that seemed medically reasonable," she said.

She selected a two-ply, tightly woven fabric and non-woven interfacing inner layer, she said.

Macpherson said the homemade washable face masks "aren't the ideal, but they're better than nothing at all."

"There is no substitute for hand-washing nor social distancing. These are the musts," Macpherson said.

She urges anyone who feels less than "100 percent well" to stay home and to not risk spreading an illness to anyone else.

Macpherson noted that healthy people "don't need to wear face masks to go about the day-to-day routine."

If a healthy person feels less anxious while wearing a mask, "OK, it won't hurt!" she said.

Macpherson said that social distancing is best maintained by keeping six feet away from another person.

To keep her staff at The Pediatric Clinic well, at least half of the practice is able to work at home and is able to use telemedicine.

Telemedicine is a way to assess and treat a patient through a vendor similar to Skype or Facetime, but offers HIPPA compliance, she said.

Macpherson explained that under ordinary circumstances, Skype and FaceTime are not approved methods for assessing patients because of privacy issues, however, waivers are approved to use those applications to keep patients and staff healthy and prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Telemedicine allows "only those who are truly sick to come in" for a face-to-face office visit, she said.

The Pediatric Clinic and other physicians' offices in the Orangeburg area are offering drive-thru testing for flu and strep, Macpherson said.

She recommends people who are feeling ill contact their primary care providers and ask if telemedicine is offered before trying to schedule an office visit.

"COVID-19 testing is limited by availability. Only a medical professional should decide if you need to be tested, observed or have other evaluation such as swab testing, blood tests or imaging," Macpherson said.

Macpherson recommends children continue to receive vaccinations if their providers offer truly separate access to well care. Some well care appointments can be fulfilled by telehealth/telemedicine.

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD.

RMC seeks personal protective equipment donations

As nationwide shortages of personal protective equipment become more apparent, the Regional Medical Center is asking for donations to help maintain an adequate supply of protective supplies.

Any businesses, organization or community members with access to personal protective equipment is asked to help RMC by donating protective supplies such as:

--Latex gloves -- all sizes

--Isolation and surgical gowns

--Masks -- N-95, isolation and surgical

--Hand sanitizer (at least 60% based alcohol)

To donate, please contact Gordon Edwards at

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