3/23: When combined with other fundraising sources, we have now exceeded our goal, raised over $130,000, and purchased 60,000 masks. Our suppliers have hundreds of thousands more in stock, the more we raise the more hospitals we will help!
Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers all across America are being sent to care for confirmed COVID19 patients without masks to protect them. This puts their lives at risk, puts other patients they are treating at risk of infection, and reduces our healthcare workforce when we need it most.
I have found an inexpensive source of masks functionally identical to N95 masks but not currently being purchased by US hospitals, and I am raising money to donate them to our healthcare workers on the front lines of COVID19.
What I've found is two different sources for "KN95" masks. KN95 are functionally identical to N95 masks. See this comparison of specs created by 3M. However, KN95's are certified by the Chinese government, whereas N95s are certified by the American government.
- US hospitals have policies to buy N95s, not KN95s, even though most are readily accepting KN95 spec'd and even lower-grade masks as donations.
- millions of units of KN95 masks are sitting in China, in-stock and ready to ship, even as there is a mass shortage of N95s.
- KN95s are significantly cheaper, currently ~60% the price of an N95 per unit
- purchasing KN95s and distributing them to US hospitals is not subtracting from the existing N95 supply chain.
This week, the CDC officially recommended KN95s and other equivalent masks for hospitals experiencing shortages: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/respirators-strategy/crisis-alternate-strategies.html
I am raising donations to purchase KN95's and send them to impacted US hospitals. We can have masks delivered to hospitals by the end of next week.
We have been in contact with four hospitals in LA and SF Bay Area - two public hospitals and two private nonprofits - that are currently seeing COVID19 patients. This starting goal is enough to provide them with several weeks of masks.
If we exceed this goal, our supplier has inventory for well over ten times as many masks, and I will be coordinating with other groups collecting masks for donation like https://findthemasks.com/ and https://www.mask-match.com/ to donate to hospitals most in need.
As N95 production ramps up, hopefully this is a temporary measure. But as the exponential curve for COVID19 hits, hospitals need immediate support.
COVID19 is the World War II of our time, and we're sending our soldiers fighting for us into battle without armor and rifles. Let's change that.
Who are you?
My name's Mark, I'm a tech entrepreneur by trade , but my family is in medicine. My first job was as an assistant in my family's small private medical practice. This project grew out of frustration with the difficulty my friends and loved ones had getting masks for themselves, and was initially me trying to purchase masks just for them. When I uncovered a potentially scalable channel to get many more masks, I decided to open this up for other contributions to fund more hospitals.
If these hospitals won't buy them, why would they accept them as donations?
We are working directly with physicians and nurses at the affected hospitals to distribute the masks. This process circumvents all the rules and complexity that surround the official supply purchasing process. Many of these healthcare professionals are already accepting donations of all sorts of non-standard masks, including hardware-grade masks, already opened boxes, surgical masks, etc. (if you have physical masks to give, check out: https://findthemasks.com/) They are attempting to sanitize and re-use masks repeatedly, against typical safety guidelines. Given the circumstances, and many conversations I have had with medical professionals on the ground, we are 100% confident they will be accepted and put to good use.
How have you vetted these factories?
I have connected with three different sources, all are used by one of my friend or fellow YC alumni for their regular business, and I have reviewed their documentation (FDA registrations, when applicable, Chinese business license and test certifications)
- Sarah Herman
- Rebecca Laramay
- Srirup K
- Marlys Mills