Mask Match cofounders Liz Klinger (L) and Chloe Alpert (R)
As doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel are on the front line of the fight against the novel COVID-19, they often find themselves short of one absolutely essential “weapon” in the battle: medical masks.
The astronomic rise in demand for these types of masks has led to a deficiency for the people that need it the most: healthcare workers who are surrounded by patients every day.
The situation with the lack of masks is so grave, that even the World Health Organization issued a release in March warning that the severe disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) is putting lives at risk, and adding that “healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others.”
For Liz Klinger, the mask shortage was personal.
“My mom is a lifelong nurse and when I was checking up on her, she told me that on her floor they were locking up the masks and not giving them out to anybody, even if they were working” Klinger says. “As soon as I heard that I panicked, because she’s a higher risk, both due to her age and her medical history.”
This prompted Klinger to team up with her friend Chloe Albert, a Forbes 30 Under 30 whose company Medinas Health helps hospitals manage their inventory, and the two started Mask Match, a peer-to-peer project with the simple goal of connecting people or institutions who have extra masks to healthcare workers and hospitals who need them.
Mask Match accepts a wide variety of masks, including filtration masks (N95, P95, R95, KN95), surgical masks, and even homemade ones (offering notes on best practices for the ones who decide to make them at home). The platform verifies the health institution asking for masks, and sends an email to the donor with the necessary information as to where and to whom they can ship the masks without leaving their home.
So the interesting question, knowing that there is currently a global shortage of masks, is simple: who even has masks to donate nowadays?
“One example would be folks in California, who had bought many of them during the wildfire season, and now realize there is an urgent need for those masks,” Alpert says. “Additionally we have recently started into partnerships with corporations, companies and institutions that may have a large number of masks.”
The Mask Match website
These corporations include Alaska Airlines, where an employee found spare masks and got permission to donate them, or The Cannon Group, which has donated 165,000 masks, almost half of the 350,000 masks that the Mask Match has provided healthcare workers with.
Though Klinger and Alpert are spearheading the effort, enthusiasm and help for Mask Match has come from far and wide. The project’s Slack group includes 300 volunteers, ranging from techies that maintain the website, to volunteers who help out with the vetting of the healthcare institutions, to ones who assists with partnerships and marketing.
Teresa Camp-Rogers, an emergency medicine physician in South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel, Mississippi, says that as they started preparing for the coronavirus pandemic, very early on they realized that finding and maintaining an adequate number of masks would be challenging. They reached out to Mask Match, and within 4 days they got a donation of 2000 surgical and N95 masks.
“It’s really made a bigger difference than what can be expressed simply by saying ‘thank you’,” Camp-Rogers says. “It has allowed us to protect our patients, our employees, and our communities.”
South Central Regional Medical Center employee receiving masks from Mask Match
South Central Regional Medical Center Source