A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Donated face masks? Samaritan answers

Written March 30th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Well before the U.S. corona outbreak, the flag flutters outside Albany General Hospital on New Year’s Eve 2019.

In the coronavirus emergency the question of donated face masks, some of them homemade, has come up. Can medical providers use them, or are they using them? Samaritan Health Services has provided an answer.

On Facebook, someone told me last week he had overheard Samaritan staffers talking about how they were not supposed to use recently donated personal protective equipment and donated homemade masks. I, too, had been wondering how hospitals or clinics could take a chance on donated “personal protective equipment” like masks.

I put the question to Ian Rollins, who handles public information for Samaritan Health Services. He sent me Samaritan’s answer on Monday afternoon. Here it is, in its entirety:

“Samaritan has received generous donations of masks, and we are very thankful to our communities. All staff must be fit tested for N95 masks before they can be used effectively for infection prevention, as it’s not one size fits all. In settings where face masks are not available, the CDC does allow for health care professionals to use other masks, including homemade masks, for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. (Homemade masks or any opened box of masks must be sanitized and/or sterilized before being put into use in patient care settings.) Samaritan’s strategy is to use standard PPE first as it offers the best protection for our vital health care professionals. Other masks will be used if standard PPE supplies are depleted or would potentially be used in care settings not requiring as stringent PPE use, to free up available supplies in COVID-19 treatment areas.”

In short, it sounds as though the providers in the Samaritan system will use their regular supplies as long as they last. And if they run out and there is no alternative, they’ll sanitize or sterilize suitable items that have been donated and do the best they can. They can’t be faulted for that approach. (hh)


36 responses to “Donated face masks? Samaritan answers”

  1. Bill says:

    Much gratitude to our medical people for their great fortitude and sacrifice in these times, without them I can’t imagine where we’d all be. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    It’s amazing that the CDC will allow a home made mask as a last resort, but the FDA won’t even allow millions of available KN95 masks (a Chinese alternative to the N95) into the country.

    In any event, here are the latest Oregon numbers as of yesterday.

    Total Test Results (positive and negative: 12,883
    Total Positive Tests: 606 (4.7%)
    Deaths: 16 (2.6% of positives)
    Hospitalized: 140


    I keep asking myself, do these numbers justify a stay-at-home order? Or, would a “mask mandate” be just as effective and less tyrannical?

    • MsJ says:

      “I keep asking myself, do these numbers justify a stay-at-home order?”
      Answer: Yes

      The current big picture numbers —
      Global positive cases = 803,313
      Global deaths = 39,014
      Global deaths = 4.9%

      key word = Global and the numbers are still increasing.

      Oregon, being part of the Global community, is doing very well with 606 positives & only 16 deaths due to social distancing, hand washing, staying at home, etc. and 28 (& counting) other states are doing the same.

      To prevent conditions that Italy, Spain, New York, Michigan, etc., etc., etc. are now experiencing from happening in Oregon, the above measures are working.

      I’d rather not see, in my neck of the woods, emergency hospitals being set up in public parks, refrigerated trucks being used for corpses, or hospitals and staff being inundated with coronavirus victims as New York is seeing first-hand.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:


        What is happening globally in specific, high density spots can’t be used to predict what will happen in Oregon. And what is happening in high density spots shouldn’t be used as a justification to impose what amounts to mass house arrest in an entire state.

        Given what we think we know so far, the state’s stay-at-home policy appears to be panic mongering, especially when less intrusive policy options are known and available.

        It is axiomatic that the greater the policy mistake, the less willing government becomes to correct it.

        Unfortunately, individual freedom and the economy are irreparably damaged in the process.

        • Lundy says:

          Gordon, thanks for raising the question of whether the actions are proportionate to the risk. It’s at minimum a fair, honest question; when I asked a similar question in another forum, regarding the legality of some of these measures, I was accused of being selfish, insensitive, not a team player, etc. It’s pretty sad and scary when fear-mongering seeks to overwhelm legitimate inquiry and discussion, not to mention civil liberty. It’s also worth noting that a novel virus is far from the only potentially grave risk to human life and well-being. I hope all of you are staying as well as possible, in every way.

        • MsJ says:

          My God, brain wide shut, dangerous thinking.

          Akin to don’t apply pressure when profusely bleeding as it is some sort of paranoid government control issue instead of a life-saving technique, meanwhile you bleed to death while thinking this. I guess there just isn’t anything in this world you don’t view as a government control experiment, regardless of what may be just pure common sense.

          If health professionals had to treat you for coronavirus, they’d probably put you last in line, because they’d rather treat others that you recklessly infected, but did their civic duty to protect the lives of loved ones and others.

          It’s an unprecedented, never-before-seen modern Global Pandemic, not Big Brother out to get you.

        • centrist says:

          More FUD and epidemonology from GS

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Since even Samaritan will only use them as a last-resort, and considering that home-made masks are basically useless according to CDC & WHO, I’d you’re way off base…

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        Off base? To paraphrase Alan Greenspan, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

        I do not advocate home made masks except as a last resort.

        When the inventory of N95’s gets to a point where they are plentiful (a week or two?), the state should revoke their mass house arrest order and instead require usage of N95’s while outdoors.

        • Bill Kapaun says:

          I simply can’t wear a mask except at total rest because of COPD.
          What’s your solution?

          • Gordon L. Shadle says:

            I am in the same boat (a senior with a chronic respiratory disease). We are at a higher risk of getting sick from the China virus. I even have to avoid some disinfectants.

            The only thing I can say is talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner before wearing any kind of mask.

            Social distancing is critical.

            Political distancing is optional.

  3. Lisa says:

    Some of the nursing homes are using some of the donated masks already. Corvallis sewing Brigade and Linn County Mask Maker groups are cranking them out for requested groups. Last total i saw was over 1500 donated from corvallis group and over 700 donated by Linn county group. Some in the corvallis group are making surgical type gowns, possibly from some donated tyvek type material.
    The shortage is real. Husband us having to reuse n95 at work up to 5 days

  4. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Homemade cloth masks may lead to more infections. The cloth holds on to moisture, is often reused, and filters poorly.

    Better than nothing, I suppose, and clearly a last resort when in the presence of someone with the disease.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      So, until/if/when you’re “in the presence of someone with the disease,” they may be a “last resort,” but the much better option has always been to keep your distance. And if that means a mandate to do so, it’s only because too many folks can’t be bothered to do so on their own…

    • Ginnyj says:

      Gordon, please just stop. This stay at home, save lives is not some government conspiracy. It is working here in Oregon. As soon as Trumplethinskin sends more test kits our way, it is what it is! Be well

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        I will not stop.

        More scientific evidence that homemade cloth masks are worthless as PPE, and almost as worthless as source control.


        Wearing a cloth mask may make you feel good, but don’t fool yourself into thinking the mask is protecting you. Science tells us a cloth mask offers virtually no protection to the wearer.

        So when I see someone with a cloth mask it tells me the wearer is virtue signaling, or less likely, assumes they have the virus and wants to avoid infecting others (the New York situation).

        If a person assumes they have the virus (symptomatic or asymptomatic), they shouldn’t be out in public. Period.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          On this particular issue, I’m in total agreement with you!

        • HowlingCicada says:

          Very enlightening article, but I would like an explanation of a minor technical detail — Why does efficiency INCREASE at a particle size SMALLER than some “inefficient range?” (just a compulsive nitpick)

          I still imagine one benefit to wearing a mask, any mask no matter how useless: to scare others into distancing, on their assumption that you are infected.

          My special addition to all the usual rules: DON’T TALK if there is any other way to communicate, like using gestures, smiling, head nodding, hand waving. I really don’t need a “How are you doing today?” (whether sincere or not – mostly not).

    • Pat Kight says:

      While home-made masks may not protect you from others, it will protect them from you. That seems worthwhile to me.

  5. Ean says:

    Some much gratitude is owed to our health workers (and really grocery store workers and other essential workers too). I just hope they don’t all get sick at the same time, it is clear that anyone in those settings will get it eventually with the lack of n95 masks and studies showing a potential for aerosolization of the virus.

  6. thomas cordier says:

    Seems like one minute in a microwave would sanitize a cloth/non-metallic face mask.
    your thoughts??

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Microwaved cloth would still have the problems of porosity, thickness, and seal leakage.

      It would be nice if scientists could invent a self-sanitizing mask with the stopping power of the N95. Hopefully 3M or equal is working on this.

  7. Lundy says:

    Hasso, can you follow up with Ian and see if the equipment OSU donated is immediately usable or also in the last-resort category?

  8. Bill Ayers says:

    Any mask at all is way way way better than nothing. The information is out there please do due diligance. One of the several reasons any mask is good is that the initial dose of the virus has a huge effect on the disease progression with each pesrson..If you are wearing a home made mask and eyeglasses (just regular eyeglasses) and the virus is carried in the air in your proximity…You will recieve less virus into your mucus membranes than you would with no protection at all. If you recieve a large initial inoculant your body has less time to mount it’s defense and you can be hit harder and with more speed. If however you are wearing any sort of mitigating barrior you may recieve a lower initial inoculant giving your body more time to react to the virus and very possibly result in a less severe infection.
    Again – please – this information is out there so please do your own study and research – Your life may depend on it. Point is ANY MASK IS HELPFUL! The better the mask the better the protection…DON”T LET THIS DETER YOU FROM WEARING WHAT YOU HAVE!

    • MsJ says:

      Refreshing to read a non-paranoic, common sense statement & a desire to help one another by not spreading Covid to others.

      Just saw a new online term for those that have none of the above: COVIDIOT

  9. centrist says:

    Much misinformed ado
    1st, reserve the N95 for medicos working in close proximity
    2nd unless you are a medic/paramedic/nurse, you shouldn’t be inside the 6ft boundary. Just common sense. If you insist on ignoring that, there are two probabilities — you’ll infect someone else, or you’ll acquire the virus eventually.
    3rd, the FUD about the evil gummint interfering with individual freedom is bizarre. The common good does not have to accommodate the whims of contrarians. That’s why there are laws, law enforcement, and prisons
    4th, there’s no app for common sense

  10. Dala Rouse says:

    I have been making some homemade masks. I donate some and sell some. They are machine washable and can be put in dryer. which helps with sanitation. I saw where in Austria you are required to wear a mask before entering a building.
    If it helps to stay home to keep well so be it.
    I am a grocery worker that is home until April 30 or longer because of my age and husbands health. I am staying quite busy doing things I haven’t been able to do before.
    I think whatever helps to keep the virus from killing more people than I am willing to do my part too and not complain.

  11. Bill Ayers says:

    Disposable masks can be reused by disinfecting in the oven at 200 deg for 30 min.
    Some are apparantly able to weather this up to 200 times and still function.
    Currently microwaving isn’t recommended as it hasn’t been tested sufficiently.
    It’s recommended that you have a second oven thermometer to confirm the temperature. Obviously don’t use a gas oven!
    Steps: 1) preheat oven 2)Confirm temp with thermometer 3)place masks in paper bags place in oven & set timer 4)remove and place in rotation
    Also conversely you could “quarantine” your mask for 9 days and for good overkill you could place the mask in a clear ziplock bag and place in the sun for 9 days.
    For example if you have 9 masks and you need to go out every day you could place in plastic bag – put date on the bag and wait (9 days)
    Again there is NO DATA on microwaving plus many masks have a metal strip so not good!
    “Improvise and overcome” comes to mind.

  12. Jennifer McClean says:

    Thank you Hasso for always bringing us the most up to date news and going where no man will go before.

  13. centrist says:

    So, two observations
    GS can’t wear flat masks and needs N95, which is actually based on a bra cup. (Clarification, not insult). Got that.
    If the fiberform mask could be cleaned without function loss, that’d be danged good.
    All is not lost. Spotted a story about a regional installation with a contract to rehab masks in Redmond.
    (No link insertion, not my thing)


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