In Vigo County, Indiana, the COVID-19 pandemic is the main focus of those in or around the health department. Vigo County Public Library saw the need to assist those in their immediate community and decided to act.

“Creating and distributing 3D printed mask extenders is one of the many ways the Vigo County Public Library continues to serve our community during this pandemic,” strategic engagement manager at the library, Elizabeth Scamihorn said. “We currently have four 3D printers creating four extenders per hour. To date, library staff members have delivered more than 900 mask extenders to Vigo County Emergency Management Agency with another delivery of 500 scheduled for Monday.”

Mask extenders are a plastic piece that attaches to the ear loops of masks and rests on the back of the head to lessen the pressure put on the ears by the loops.

“Healthcare workers are wearing masks for an extended amount of time and are experiencing discomfort – we knew as a library team we could provide for this need by creating 3D printed mask extenders,” said Scamihorn.

Making and distributing mask extenders is not the only thing the library is doing to help Vigo County during this time.

“Vigo County Public Library staff members are sewing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) as a response to the local and national shortage of face masks. Many of our staff members have family members who are essential workers – they along with our staff – are our first priority,” said Scamihorn.

She said that their masks are made in youth and adult sizes and are available upon request by staff.

“As VCPL staff member requests are fulfilled, masks will continue to be created. To date, 150 masks have been created and distributed to the Library Board of Trustees, staff members and their families,” said Scamihorn.

The Vigo County Public Library buildings are closed during this time, but their resources are still available online with a library card. They are also allowing the public to utilize their Wi-Fi from the parking lots as well as serving food at a distribution site with the school corporation. See their website for more details (https://www.vigo.lib.in.us/).

“Even during these uncertain times, the Vigo County Public Library is responding to our community through innovative and inspiring ways,” said Scamihorn.

The printed mask extenders are being sent to the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency, which is helping the community with the logistics side of the pandemic.

“The health department is the lead on the pandemic and we are assisting them with logistics, so we're doing the distribution of supplies and trying to secure them. It's affecting Vigo County pretty significantly, it’s our total focus right now is the pandemic,” said Assistant Director or Emergency Management, Troy Ramsey.

The masks sent to Emergency Management are then distributed throughout the community to various essential workers.

“We're trying to find PPE or distribute to the hospitals, the fire department, police department, long-term care facilities, like nursing homes or programs with assisted care or in-home Care. That takes up my entire day,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey also stressed the importance of mask extenders in healthcare, especially at a time like this.

“A lot of these people in our hospital settings or nursing homes have to wear those masks for an extended period of time: eight, 10, or 12-hour shifts. So, to have that mask on with the plastic on it would help with not having the mask on your ears all day. It kind of chews them up, so with that extender it helps protect the people who are protecting all of us,” said Ramsey.

PPE and mask extenders aren’t the only supplies needed in healthcare during this time.

“There's various other places around town that are assisting Us in creative ways,” Ramsey said. “We are getting our hand sanitizer, which has been a big thing for first responders, from a place in Bloomington called Cardinal Distilleries. We've got another place that's been working on mask prototypes. We just found out the other day that Ivy Tech is also making masks extenders and we've received some from ISU.”

The Emergency Management Agency stresses the importance and the scarcity of masks during this time.

“We've had great help coming in with a lot of Industries making cloth masks to be donated and if people are making those, they can drop them off at the annex, we have a bin set up for those along with instructions on how to make them. Those are big help, because masks are just so hard to find,” said Ramsey.

They are also encouraging everyone to take the Health Department’s advice seriously and wear masks when in public and to not touch their faces.

“The biggest thing that I can't stress enough is that we're all in this together, it may seem like we're not because we're all at home and quarantining and hanging out, but everybody is dealing with the same things now,” Ramsey said. “Everyone's got to be patient, we'll get through it.”