A new public and private sector effort has resulted in hundreds of thousands of face masks being delivered to the people of the Pittsburgh region to help fight infection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like face masks have been difficult to obtain. However, donations totaling more than $750,000 from the region’s philanthropic and corporate communities have launched a new “Protective Mask Fund” that will allow for an initial acquisition of 360,000 of non-medical grade face masks available for essential workers in the health and human services fields in the Pittsburgh region.
As a community service, the effort is supported by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which will manage the funds. The manufacturing and distribution effort is being carried out with the dedicated partnership of two local organizations – American Textile Company and Global Links.
Mask production is being coordinated through American Textile Company (ATC). The nearly century-old Mon Valley-based textile manufacturer stepped up quickly to repurpose its domestic production capacity, which includes a facility in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, as well as in Georgia, Texas and Utah, to manufacture the masks to standards developed in cooperation with the Allegheny County Health Department.
To substantially increase production capacity to meet local demands, ATC worked with officials to have its El Salvador operation brought back online during the national quarantine to serve this humanitarian need. ATC’s Pittsburgh and three other U.S. facilities are delivering 50,000-60,000 masks weekly, and the first international shipment of 70,000 masks arrived Thursday evening at Allegheny County Airport, via a plane from El Salvador.
Global Links, a Pittsburgh-based medical relief agency serving safety net organizations and nonprofits in western Pennsylvania and beyond, is receiving the supplies and managing distribution with guidance from the Allegheny County Health Department, Allegheny County Human Services Department and public health and human services agencies in surrounding counties.
“Pittsburghers have always come together to solve tough problems with ingenuity and creativity, and that’s exactly what we are doing here with the public, private and nonprofit sectors partnering to make an impact for the greater good,” said Lance Ruttenberg, President and CEO, American Textile Co. “American Textile is honored to be able to play a role in putting our region’s people first as we all address the COVID-19 public health crisis.”
While the masks are not FDA-approved N95 respirators, their use in the right applications allows the limited supply of medical-grade respirators to be allocated where they are needed most.
“Through a uniquely Pittsburgh partnership, we are leveraging Global Links’ 30 years of experience in managing and distributing healthcare supplies to get these emergency masks in the hands of those who need them most,” said Angela Garcia, Executive Director, Global Links. “Protecting the frontline workers who are receiving the masks – the healthcare workers, human and social service workers, nursing home staff and child and senior care providers in our region – is critical to their safety and to our ability to slow the spread of this disease in our community.”
The following organizations and individuals have helped fund this effort including: AHRCO, American Textile Company, BNY Mellon, Dollar Bank, Federated Investors Foundation, Inc., Gateway Financial, Giant Eagle, Inc., Henry L. Hillman Foundation, Jewish Healthcare Foundation, Koppers, PITT OHIO, Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, PNC Foundation, PPG and the PPG Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Robroy Industries, Dick and Ginny Simmons, The Heinz Endowments, and Wadhwani Impact Trust.
“True to the spirit of partnership and collaboration that defines our region, Pittsburgh’s foundation and corporate partners identified a community need and generously and expeditiously stepped up to offer support,” said Stefani Pashman, CEO, Allegheny Conference. “The Conference is pleased to serve as the custodian of the fund and to work with our partners to meet the needs for masks that will help address the public health crisis and get our region back to work.”