Designer Barbara Bates makes nearly 2K facial masks for frontline health care workers

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Famed designer Barbara Bates is using her skills to help people fighting the coronavirus.

For Bates, this project has been a labor of love.

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"If you're taking care of someone and you need something over your face," Bates said.

She delivered nearly 2,000 face masks to help frontline health care workers at Mt. Sinai Hospital, who are desperate for more personal protective equipment as they battle COVID-19.

Mt. Sinai currently has four COVID-19 positive inpatients. Their sister hospital, Holy Cross, has three.

"We're extremely grateful for Barbara's generosity. She's always been a great partner with Mt. Sinai," said Dan Regan, a hospital spokesman.

Normally known for dressing celebrities and entertainers, the self-taught designer was pressed into service just a few days ago after a friend came up with the idea and encouraged her to convert her South Loop fashion house into a mask making assembly line.

"I did a little bit of research and actually there are no specific guidelines to make a facial mask," Bates said. "We're talking a facial mask, not a N95 masks."

She clarified that her masks could not be used by themselves in a surgical setting.

"A protective mask can go over the surgical mask because that can save those surgical masks and give them a little more life," she said.

She then reached out to her suppliers, like Rainbow Fabrics, and sewers she knows to see if they would help.

They came though, donating the necessary materials and labor to cover the estimated $8 it costs to make each mask.

The team started putting the masks together on Tuesday night.

The masks come in light blue, white, or army green and are made from a cotton blend that is roughly 74% porous.

The facial masks are not surgical masks, but hospital officials say they could be used by doctors, nurses, and patients.

"We want to make sure we use a masks in a way that is consistent with protection guidelines, so that they are being used properly," Reagan explained.

Despite the passing of her mother only three weeks ago, Bates remains determined to help.

"Do I stop being a fashion designer for a minute to take on this cause and I would, but I have to be able to do it and know that I'm giving somebody a product that they really need," she said.
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