Hunched over a sewing machine at a prison in upstate New York in late April, Jordan Stevens had one wish: He wanted to keep one of the masks. He'd been working seven days a week, earning pennies per hour, to sew surgical masks for correctional officers, sick and quarantined inmates, and hospital workers. Stevens, who requested that we not identify his real name or location for fear of retaliation from prison officials, has a compromised immune system that would make him especially vulnerable to complications if he caught the coronavirus. The virus has already sickened at least one other person in the prison. But when Stevens asked for permission to take one of the masks back to his cell, a correctional officer refused, and told him he would have to tie a state-issued handkerchief around his face instead.
TAOYUAN, TAIWAN – Behind the barbed wire-topped fences of Taipei Prison, a small group of inmates are hunched over clacking sewing machines, working overtime to churn out face masks and help ward off the new coronavirus. Usually the men would be making prison uniforms in the bright-lit sewing factory in the city of Taoyuan. But after the coronavirus spread to Taiwan they switched to making masks, putting together some 52,000 face coverings since mid-February. Sporting a gray face mask himself, a 50-year-old inmate surnamed Yuh said he was keeping his family close to heart as he worked. "When they came to see me, they said it was very difficult to buy face masks out there. I said to them'Daddy is making face masks here, and that maybe you will have the benefit and the opportunity to use it,'" he said.
Hospitals in Japan are increasingly turning away sick people as the country struggles with surging coronavirus infections and its emergency medical system collapses. In one recent case, an ambulance carrying a man with a fever and difficulty breathing was rejected by 80 hospitals and forced to search for hours for a hospital in downtown Tokyo that would treat him. Another feverish man finally reached a hospital after paramedics unsuccessfully contacted 40 clinics. The Japanese Association for Acute Medicine and the Japanese Society for Emergency Medicine say many hospital emergency rooms are refusing to treat people, including those suffering strokes, heart attacks and external injuries. Japan initially seemed to have controlled the outbreak by going after clusters of infections in specific places, usually enclosed spaces such as clubs, gyms and meeting venues.
Major Japanese companies are branching into new fields to make medical gowns and hand sanitizer as part of an effort to ease shortages amid the coronavirus pandemic. Textile maker Teijin Ltd. will begin production of medical gowns and is planning to supply 9 million to government ministries and agencies by the end of June. Teijin will utilize the materials and know-how of its Osaka-based unit, Teijin Frontier Co., to produce 50,000 gowns a month from May at the latter's factory in Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture. Overseas plants, including those in China and Thailand, are also expected to start production. Medical gowns come in two types -- surgical and nonsurgical.
Medical workers in Japan are facing severe shortages of protective equipment in their fight against the new coronavirus despite government efforts to increase support, a recent survey has shown. A total of 78 percent said in an online survey conducted last month that there was a shortage, or somewhat of a shortage of necessary medical protective gear, up from 61 percent in the previous poll in March, according to medical information provider K.K. eHealthcare. The study was conducted between April 16 and 21 on 522 medical doctors nationwide and was a follow-up to the one in March that saw 817 questioned. Some 32 percent of midsize or large hospitals with over 100 beds said there was a "severe shortage," while 45 percent of smaller facilities with less than 100 beds said they were in similar situations. Among the items in short supply, 75 percent responded to a multiple-choice question that they wanted more surgical masks, followed by 71 percent looking for highly protective N95 masks.