EDMONTON -- A local business is producing its own face masks to help address the shortage.

The cotton masks made by Derk's Formals are not certified for health care use, but the company hopes they can give people some peace of mind and maybe boost spirits.

"We made an Alberta strong version, we want to have other ones," Landon Derk told CTV News Edmonton. "Obviously morale is something that's extremely important and we're trying to have some things that will lighten the circumstance a little bit."

The company normally specializes in first responder uniforms. Derk hopes that by producing these masks, it will ease demand and make sure the proper masks are getting to the healthcare workers who need them most.

Masks alone are not enough to protect people from COVID-19. According to Dr. Hyo-Jick Choi, they can even increase the risk.

"The virus can live for hours to several days on the surface of an over-the-face mask which increases concern for contact transmission," the University of Alberta chemical and materials engineering professor said. "Touching the mask can be another source of contamination or infection."

Choi said best practice is to avoid touching the face and the mask.

While the proper use of a mask may help fight the spread, experts say the best defence is staying home and practicing physical distancing.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Joey Slattery