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Coronavirus in West Virginia: Inmates assist amid mask shortage

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[Courtesy of WV Division of Corrections]

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The demand for masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted West Virginia’s Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation to lend a helping hand.

Inmates at the Denmar Correctional Center and Lakin Correctional Center have been making protective cloth face coverings – 32,200 and counting.

Both centers are part of the state’s Correctional Industries program, which provides products to government agencies.Part of the product line includes upholstered furniture, the inmates were already adept at working with fabrics and patterns, said program Deputy Director Betty Slack.

“They are taking great pride in this project,” Slack said. “I’ve been to both shops and they are thrilled they were able to offer design ideas, etc. and realize they have one of the most important functions in state government right now.”

With material supplied by the WV National Guard, the inmates are making face coverings for general use. The inmates so far have provided nearly 8,000 masks to the National Guard, for a statewide collaborative attempt at a sufficient stockpile for West Virginia. 

At Lakin alone, the inmates are completing at least 1,000 masks each day.

While not medical-grade, the masks provide the level of protection recommended by the CDC for public settings. Producing these face coverings helps reserve such heavier-duty masks as N95 respirators for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.

Since last month, the Lakin and Denmar inmates have assembled more than 24,000 face masks.

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