WesternU students have mobilized efforts to make masks from fabric and collect or buy N95 masks in the wake of a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Second-year College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific student Arjun “Corey” Bakshi, a former EMT and ER/trauma tech before starting medical school, began the mask-making project because he saw how bad conditions were getting for protecting health care workers.
“It is both frightening and inhumane when it comes to protecting our health care providers,” Bakshi said. “We wouldn’t send a soldier to war with slingshots and sticks, so why are health care providers being sent into this battle without any weapons to protect themselves?”
Bakshi reached out to fellow WesternU students to see if they would help him make handmade face masks for health care providers. He also reached out to local businesses.
One such business, The Social Cut, a barbershop and tailor shop located at 168 W. 3rd St. in Pomona, California, stepped up by providing resources and by helping to make masks. They have enough fabric to make close to 700 masks, according to Bakshi.
Bakshi started a Facebook group called “Masks for Healthcare Workers” to recruit students and community members from across California. There are currently more than 60 members sewing, cutting fabrics, sharing tips and trick for making masks and providing logistics.
“COMP students David Ashley, Nikeeta Shah, and the DO 2023 SGA (Student Government Association) are assembling resources for their classes and eventually the entire University community where they can learn more about COVID-19, how to volunteer or donate, and have access to many ways to stay healthy, happy, and productive during this difficult time,” Bakshi said. “They are still in the works, but we expect they will be up and running in the near future. We hope to expand this resource beyond COMP.”
Third-year COMP student XinYue “Sandy” Chen joined the face mask project because her parents work with distributors and shipping companies from Asia.
“In the midst of the PPE shortage, I reached out to a few of these distributors through my parents’ contacts and was able to find the last 500 N95 masks that this distributor had available,” Chen said, “My parents and I fronted the cost of these masks, which were at base cost, because we wanted to secure this supply and had them ship these masks over in a few separate shipments, due to the fact that customs out of China are very strict at this time.”
Chen teamed up with her fellow students and created a GoFundMe fundraiser titled “Help us send masks to hospitals” to help both efforts and as a way to cover the costs for buying the masks.
“This was not a one-person initiative, but a collective of students working independently from WesternU to help our community, our providers, and our future colleagues,” Bakshi said. “We all hope that in the future, as health care providers, if we run into a challenge like this, we will have the same support from our community.”
Bakshi reached out to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC) in Pomona and Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo offering supplies to them.
He says the plan is to supply masks weekly, as long as the group has the finances, resources, and manpower.