SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — With the rise of the novel coronavirus, health care professionals are dealing with shortages of protective gear.

Local hospitals say their supply of N95 masks is running critically low and are calling on the community for donations.

So, with needle and thread, volunteers have been working to keep our health care system from ripping at the seams.

“Instead of sitting here by yourself in your own head, you can do something,” said Vickie Fu. “Cut a piece of fabric and realize that it’s helpful somewhere.”

Fu and her mother, May, have been sewing masks for doctors and nurses all across Northern California. It’s a perfect fit for the 84-year-old, who worked as a seamstress for most of her life.

“Just sitting here, she was like, ‘It’s going to be like prison.’ But now she’s busy and doing something she enjoys,” Fu said.

They got the idea on Facebook, where people across the country are posting patterns and step-by-step instructions for making masks out of cotton fabric.

Fu is a pharmacist, so she is well connected in the medical community and has already been able to hand out the masks to dozens of doctors and nurses near her Granite Bay home. She also started a Facebook page to help other sewers get advice and connect with hospital workers.

“We can start just looking in our closets for pillowcases and flat sheets, clean them out and cut them. That’s one little part that’s very helpful,” she explained.

Fabric masks are not as protective as the N95 masks that medical professionals typically use. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says they can be used as a last resort.

“If you were on the front lines taking care of somebody who is coughing and can’t breathe and dying, wouldn’t you want some protection?” Fu said. “So, you can continue to either help another person or protect yourself.”

In a time when it often feels like the world is unraveling, this is their small way of helping sew things back together.  

“Everybody can play a little part and when you do something it actually helps you to deal with crises better,” Fu said.

Hospitals across the region are accepting donations of N95 masks, but most are not taking fabric masks yet. However, individual doctors and nurses are asking for fabric masks on Facebook. You can click or tap here to help.