Lauren Ferguson is sewing face masks every chance she gets because she wants to help people in the community feel safer when they leave their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There's a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) across the country with some hospitals in Canada limiting their front-line staff to one or two disposable masks a day. Family physicians are running low as well and in response people have been stepping up and making their own gear to help fill gaps. 

Ferguson is a Cochrane mom of two and owns a local hand made clothing company called Mountain Side Threads. 

She says she joined a mask makers Facebook group and starting sewing masks to cover N95 masks for health care workers. 

Ferguson says her mom is severely immune compromised and she thought she'd make her mom a few masks and it just blew up from there. 

"There's 250 masks on the original thread itself and then the wait list I haven't actually even calculated but from what I've been looking at it's close to another 200 masks and I actually have a friend who messaged me and she has 60 masks that she wants as well as 270 filters."

She's done her research and read studies on how a cloth mask compares to a medical grade mask. 

"A cloth mask in itself catches anywhere from five per cent to 67 per cent of viruses and anything kind of floating through the air to filter it out. It's really dependent on, is the mask wet, are you wearing the mask correctly and is the mask one layer or two layer with a tight-weave."

She purchases the disposable filters to insert into the reusable mask "So the filter is a five-layer activated carbon filter. It resembles the N95 mask that has a 2.5 micron filter on it."

Ferguson's masks consist of two layers of tight-weave fabric and a nose wire to help tighten the fit.

She also posted a video on her Facebook page that shows how to properly wear the mask and tighten it. 

Ferguson is mainly sewing the masks for Cochrane and area residents but she has a few orders to fill for people in places as far as Winnipeg and PEI. 

The masks are available in four sizes men, women, children 7-12 years and children 3-6 years.

She is only charging $5 for the mask and $1 for the filter, which just covers the cost to make the masks and buy the filters.

Studies have shown that wearing a homemade mask is better than wearing none. 

Just yesterday the province's top doctor, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said "Wearing a non-medical mask, such as a homemade cloth mask, has not been proven to protect the person who is wearing it, however, it may be helpful in protecting others around you."

Face coverings and masks help prevent transmission of the virus by containing respiratory droplets that might be produced by people speaking, and prevent them from contaminating other people or surfaces, Hinshaw said.

Wearing a mask can also help be a good reminder for people to not touch their faces when out in public.

Homemade masks and face coverings should be well fitted and not gape at the sides and people need to be aware masks can become contaminated on the outside. Moving or adjusting the mask increases this risk.

"Cloth masks should be worn only a short time as there is some evidence they can trap virus particles after they become damp, which may put the wearer at greater risk of being infected," Hinshaw said.