New York companies and residents rallied together to provide alternative and homemade medical supplies as hospital resources continue to be exhausted due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of Friday, April 3, New York had over 100,000 reported cases of COVID-19. The state with the next highest amount of reported cases was New Jersey, with over 25,000 reported cases.
Due to the large number of cases in New York, hospitals have quickly run out of essential supplies needed to treat patients, such as masks, ventilators, hand sanitizer and even hospital beds. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that while the Federal Emergency Management Agency is giving New York State 400 ventilators, the state still needs at least 30,000.
Cuomo has called on the federal government to give New York the supplies they need, rather than waiting to distribute them equally to the whole country since New York has far more cases than other states. In the meantime, the people of New York have pitched in to help provide supplies.
Some non-essential companies have transformed their factories to produce these supplies and hospitals are now calling on residents to make and donate homemade face masks.
Black Button Distillery in Rochester, NY has stopped normal production to switch to producing ethanol-based hand sanitizer to be distributed to local hospitals, doctor’s offices and at-risk communities.
“We are uniquely qualified to safely handle and bottle ethanol-based hand sanitizer, and we have an extensive network of contacts to bring bottles, labels, labor, and ingredients to bear,” said Black Button Distilling President Jason Barrett in a press release on Tuesday, March 17. “We are doing this to help our community, to hopefully save lives and to get our employees back to work. We want to do our part in these unprecedented times.”
One of the supplies that hospitals need the most to treat COVID-19 patients are face masks. According to the CDC, there are three levels to optimizing the supply of face masks: conventional capacity, contingency capacity and crisis capacity. New York is currently at crisis capacity.
Options given by the CDC for when there are no face masks, or when quantities are limited, include excluding healthcare personnel (HCP) with high-illness risk from working with COVID-19 patients, using a face shield to cover the front and sides of the face, and, as a last resort, using homemade masks for HCP.
The Hudson Valley Additive Manufacturing Center at SUNY New Paltz is one of many organizations making homemade face masks or face shields. They are 3D-printing almost 200 face shields every day, and have delivered over 1,000 so far, according to their website.
One local Facebook group, “NY Mask-Makers Supporting Our COVID-19 Avengers!” was created for homemade sewers to find information on how to make the face masks and where to donate them. They have drop-off locations in Beacon, Kingston, Newburgh, Woodstock and Poughkeepsie, which can be found on their group page. According to the group’s moderator, Kimberly Ruth, they have made and distributed over 1,200 masks.
In addition to these efforts, many companies have donated supplies to New York State such as personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and free flights for medical volunteers.
Among the many donations were 1.4 million N-95 masks donated by Softbank, 33,000 pairs of gloves from the Office of Attorney General Letitia James, 560,000 bottles of water from Niagara Bottling and 2,500 gallons of hand sanitizer from Facebook. The complete list of donations can be found at Gov. Cuomo’s website.
“New York is fighting a war against this virus and we need all the help we can get,” Cuomo said in a press release on March 26. “The generosity of these companies, organizations and individuals — and many others coming forward every day to offer support — will play a critical role in our mission to bolster our hospital surge capacity, support frontline workers and get people the help they need.”
What can you do to help hospitals in this unprecedented time? If possible, help make face masks using the guidelines provided by the hospital you intend to donate to. If you feel symptoms that may indicate COVID-19, do not go to the emergency room. Call your healthcare provider before taking any action. Stay safe, stay home and wash your hands.