'He needs this item to live': Canadian mom's plea for surgical masks amid COVID-19 outbreak

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The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a global shortage in personal protection equipment, such as surgical masks, which are leaving many children with life-threatening illnesses in need. (Image via Getty Images).

An Ontario mother is on the search for a life-saving face mask for her eight-year-old son.

Heather Dresser of Windsor, Ont. took to Facebook to issue a plea to the public after the outbreak of COVID-19 caused a shortage in the pediatric surgical masks her son Caleb must wear due to numerous environmental allergies.

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“This is Caleb, he’s eight and has been having to wear a mask due to life threatening allergies long before it was cool to own,” Dresser wrote, adding that the masks her son relies on are currently on back order until June. “Yes the schools are on a three week shut down but he needs this item to live. If you have ANY masks to spare. Note the cute dinosaurs on it, please shoot me a message, his life depends on it. Thirty allergies, 12 fatal, all environmental.”

Since March 12, Dresser’s post has been shared more than 200 times.

Earlier this month the World Health Organization issued a statement urging global manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE) to increase manufacturing by 40 per cent. According to a news release, panic-buying, hoarding and personal misuse have caused a shortage in medical masks, gloves, respirators, face shields, gowns and goggles for medical professionals and healthcare workers.

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A separate bulletin encouraged “rational” and “appropriate” use of PPE, explicitly urging those who are asymptomatic of COVID-19 to avoid wearing surgical masks to prevent the strain on already limited resources.

The World Health Organization issued a plea to manufacturers of face masks to increase production by 40% to meet the demands of COVID-19. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)

The New York Times reports that China, which produces approximately half of the world’s supply of face masks, has yet to export PPE despite increasing manufacturing 12-fold since the outbreak in 2019. Medicom, a Canadian-based company manufactures three million masks each day at their Shanghai facility, but has not been able to export internationally. According to a statement by Minnesota-based 3M, most of their product has been sold within China, even prior to COVID-19.

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Health Canada has advised that healthy individuals forego wearing face masks in public as there is little evidence that the virus is airborne, noting that they may provide “a false sense of security” if worn and used improperly. People are encouraged to practice social distancing, wash their hands frequently, avoid touching their faces and be diligent about cleaning high-traffic areas and surfaces in their home such as toys, phones, door handles, remotes, toilets and bedside tables. Masks should only be worn if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and must leave your home.

For now, parents like Dresser and charity organizations are asking the public to be mindful of those with existing health-issues who are extremely vulnerable and require PPE to survive.

Little Hands Kids For A Cause, which supports families in the Windsor & Essex County that have children with life-threatening illnesses, issued a statement regarding the importance of self-isolation in saving the lives of immune-compromised children.

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“The uncertainty about COVID-19 and the measures being taken to protect our most vulnerable, have forced you to change your lives, cancel your plans and remain in your homes. We ask that in this uncertain time, instead of responding with greed and fear, you reach out with love and kindness,” the statement to Facebook read. “Almost all of our Little Hands families have dealt with or deal with periods of isolation as a part of their treatments... They live their lives wearing masks, away from their family and friends. Sanitizing, cancelling plans and self isolation is nothing new to any of them. We know it is to you, but we ask that you remember in your time of frustration, that they are part of the reason that your vacation plans had to be cancelled. While you might weather through this virus unscathed, our Heroes will not. It is part of all of our responsibilities to protect our most vulnerable, and our Warriors, fall into this category.”

The organization is asking that anyone with access or information on sourcing child-sized masks contact them via Facebook.

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