If you can sew, you can make face masks for coronavirus fight

Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Melanie Coakley holds a colorful cotton mask she made Saturday morning at her Ready Set Sew shop in East Ridge.

In the fight against the coronavirus, a sewing machine probably wouldn't make the short list of life-saving instruments.

But as supplies of personal protective equipment dwindle in hospitals at the epicenters of the U.S. outbreak, medical professionals are sounding the alarm about a lack of surgical caps and face masks to protect their patients and themselves in contaminated environments.

Melanie Coakley, owner of Ready Set Sew in East Ridge, is answering the call.

On Saturday, she had begun the first steps in an assembly line that she said would eventually produce stacks of masks for local doctors and nurses to use when the need arises in the Chattanooga area.

"Everybody's stressed," she said. "This is something I can do to keep my mind off things and actually do something productive."

Coakley said she was asked to start producing the masks by a couple of nurses who work in local hospitals.