This is an unprecedented moment in the pandemic.
We are in for a very difficult winter. As the new wave of COVID-19 ravages the Bay Area, soaring beyond its earlier peak, we could soon face the unthinkable. Food insecurity is pervasive, ICUs are nearing capacity, economic relief is nowhere in sight, widespread vaccination is still many months away. As UC Berkeley scientists, Bay Area activists, community leaders, and conscious neighbors, we encompass a mutual aid group called the Common Humanity Collective. Since forming in early March, we have been working without pause to produce and deliver high-quality PPE for free to tens of thousands of the poorest and most vulnerable residents of the Bay.
What have we done already?
When hand sanitizer disappeared from store shelves, we tapped scientific reagent suppliers to immediately begin churning out hundreds of gallons of a WHO-approved mixture in empty lab spaces. When N95 particulate respirators became impossible to acquire, we repurposed HEPA filters and other materials to craft inexpensive, durable, reusable submicron (N85) face masks. With no motive for compensation or profit, we can make all our supplies for a fraction of their market price. We have had, at one time or another, 220 volunteers participate across the effort—assembling masks at home, mixing disinfectants in the lab, acquiring small bottles to portion sanitizer, assessing needs around the Bay, and delivering large batches of PPE where needed. We established a robust distribution infrastructure to channel our supplies to the Bay Area’s dispossessed, working with over 200 organizations to rapidly disperse PPE to public and low-income housing residents, food banks, nursing homes, domestic violence sanctuaries, jails, homeless relief organizations and shelters, and essential workers. As of early December, we have produced and distributed over 5,960 gallons of hand sanitizer, 16,690 submicron face masks, and 500,000 disinfectant wipes.
Where do we go from here?
The vast brunt of this disease's punishments will be dealt to the most powerless among us. Four in ten people have struggled to feed themselves sine March; they wait for hours outside food banks in the cold, in lines that wrap around city blocks. Those in poverty, who often dwell in crowded urban settings, have so much else on their minds than shelling out for expensive, reliable PPE. As a much scarier nightmare grips the Bay, we are going to do everything in our power to ensure that the most neglected and beleaguered among us are protected. We need your help. Within the next four months, your generous donations will go toward purchasing materials and assembly supplies to make and distribute an additional 20,000 reusable N85 masks, obtaining at least 15,000 small bottles in which to portion and distribute sanitizer, shipping supplies to remote destinations such as the Navajo Nation, and covering any other small costs incurred in the daily operation of this project.
Check out a list of places that we have supplied—many of which we continue to work with today!
- Debra Moran
- Corina Rieder
- Kris Niyogi
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