They're pretty, colorful and potentially life-saving.

Loretta Miller showed off face masks of bright blue, orange, purple, green, red and a rainbow of other colors at the Kalico Kat Quilt Shop, 1239 S. Elk St., on Monday -- the creations by her and others who are responding in their own local way to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hospitals and clinics in Wyoming and nationwide are running short of the necessary personal protective equipment to thwart the virus's spread by coughing or sneezing of the highly contagious novel coronavirus.

While the handmade masks aren't professional grade, they do help, Miller said.

The masks and gowns will help protect the doctors, nurses, hospital staff and patients at the Wyoming Medical Center as it copes with the influx of people who think they may have, or are being treated for infections, Miller said. (The number of cases in Natrona County stood at 10 and statewide at 94 early Monday afternoon.)

Doctors and nurses use certain designs of the masks to fit over their N95 respirator masks that protect them from possible infections from patients who could spread the novel coronavirus when they sneeze or cough. The handcrafted masks enable the doctors and nurses to use their N95s longer.

Miller began organizing the effort by contacting Kalico Kat owner Sandie Swanson, who allowed her and other seamstresses to set up an area in the back of her shop.

Sandie Swanson, owner of Kalico Kat. Tom Morton, Townsquare Media
Sandie Swanson, owner of Kalico Kat. Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

Miller also got a boost on Friday when Wyoming Medical Center spokeswoman issued a press release.

"It's been phenomenal, the outpouring of people who want to help and want to get started," she said.

Since Friday, Miller has received more than 200 emails from people in Washington, D.C., Texas, Ohio, Michigan and other states who want to help or start their own sewing projects.

Swanson said the response to the plea for seamstresses has been fantastic, adding she called Staples, 4160 E. Second St., which prints the patterns for gowns for free.

Monday, Carol Burback laid out the strips of blue cloth that will be sewed into the ties for masks, and fed them through her Janome Gold sewing machine.

Carol Burback sews a tie for a mask. Tom Morton, Townsquare Media
Carol Burback sews a tie for a mask. Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

Burback heard about the mask- and gown-making effort through her daughter, who saw a  post about it on Facebook, she said.

Each mask takes about a half-hour to 45 minutes to make, Burback said.

While she knows about shortcuts, the extra time is worth it, she said. "it's about safety."

She visited Kalico Kat often because she participates in the local quilt-sewing groups.

Burback has more time now that she's unemployed after the beauty salons in Casper and Douglas where she works had to shut down, she said.

"There's a lot of us who are in that boat, so instead of staying home, I'm useful," she said.


To join the effort, email Williams at

You may drop off donations of masks and gowns at bins in the Sky Lobby of the Wyoming Medical Center. To get there, enter through the West Parking Garage in the 200 block of South Jackson Street. Hours for donation are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

You also may drop off donations at the Mills Police Department, 4800 W. Yellowstone Highway, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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