(Wichita, Kan.) As COVID-19 continues to pose a threat to our community, a coalition of local leaders is driving an effort to protect those on the frontlines. Working under the name GoProtectUs, the group is producing and distrubutingfabric face mask covers and other products that can help safeguard healthcare workers and others from contracting the virus. Coalition members Wichita State University’s makerspace GoCreate, a Koch collaborative, Fruhauf Uniforms, ComfortCare Homes, Groover Labs, Gardner Design, and the charitable giving organization Grumpy Old Men.
According to the country’s top infectious disease experts, the U.S. may still be far from the peak of the outbreak, which has already claimed more than 2,500 American lives. At the same time that the number of confirmed cases increase exponentially across the country, critical supplies are scarce. In particular, N95 surgical masks, the mask type preferred by doctors and nurses as a trusted defense, continue to be in short supply. Face mask covers like the ones produced by GoProtectUs can extend the useful life of N95 masks, allowing them to be worn longer.
Through coordinating local donations and production resources, GoProtectUs is organizing community and commercial capacity to help limit the spread of the virus, especially to healthcare workers. Production of the mask covers will involve Fruhauf Uniform’s high-capacity equipment and hundreds of volunteer sewers, many of which come from local quilters’ guilds. Together, they expect to ramp up the current production to thousands of face mask covers in the coming weeks.
Efforts are also underway to stimulate the production of hard plastic face mask shields and other innovative products that can be useful in the battle against COVID-19. GoProtectUs is forming a plan with the goal of producing a sufficient number of these shields and other products as soon as possible, in collaboration with other community resources.
“It’s the least we can do to help protect the people working so hard to protect us,” said Ty Masterson of GoCreate, one of the leaders behind GoProtectUs. “This effort is a way we can proactively support our community during this time.”
“Our sincerest thanks to Grumpy Old Men for their generous $25,000 donation to start this effort,” Masterson added. “We hope to see more entities contribute to this urgent need.”
Creating the face mask covers will require additional volunteers and donations to pay for fabric and supplies. To donate directly to the WSU Foundation, Grumpy Old Men’s matching contribution fund, visit www.foundation.wichita.edu/gocreate.
Completed products will be distributed first to healthcare workers and other first responders in South Central Kansas with the potential to serve other areas of the state and the nation as production capacity allows. Mask cover kits are also available to the general public to be assembled for personal use. For more informationor to volunteer, call (316) 978-5307.