TIMMINS -- As the number of COVID-19 cases declines in northeastern Ontario, the Timmins and District Hospital is still not taking any chances.

Officials recently put out a call for homemade cotton face masks and hundreds have been coming in.

The home-sewn face covers help protect the hospital's surgical-grade supply and especially in the event of a coronavirus resurgence.

"As hospitals have now started to try and slowly reintroduce surgical and clinical services that were shut down during COVID-19 and we know the number of patients presenting to hospitals are going to start increasing," said Jodie Russell, the infection control coordinator at Timmins and District Hospital. "We want to reassure...if you come to the hospital and don't have a mask, you'll be provided with a mask to keep you safe."

At this time, the hospital staff is not using the home-sewn masks. They're for people who need to attend the hospital regularly, such as nephrology or oncology patients.

"These patients attend here frequently every week for their treatments so, therefore, have more risk of exposure and they do have less of an immune system in comparison to the general population," explained Lorna Green the hospital's manager of oncology, nephrology and pharmacy.

Officials also say it's important for the hospital to protect its inventory of surgical-grade masks in the event of a second wave of COVID-19.

"The global manufacturing of masks and PPE (personal protective equipment) haven't caught up with the demands," said Russell. "We know that hospitals are still struggling to find enough PPE inventory. It's getting better but it's still not back to where we were before the pandemic."

Masks can be dropped off in a sealed bag to staff at the front entrance of the hospital between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.