As the world continues to grapple with the spread of COVID-19, with the number of confirmed case about the reach two million globally, people are faced with a new reality that has them adjusting to an unfamiliar way of life. Governments, businesses, and schools have all had to adjust to the pandemic, with millions of people working from home and regular activities cancelled. Even essential activities, like grocery shopping, are causing elevated stress levels due to the risk exposure and 6% mortality rate (based on confirmed cases).
Perhaps the greatest challenge is simply reducing the spread of the coronavirus through basic safety and common sense protocols, such as staying home, and wearing protective face coverings when going out for essential items. In fact, the CDC has recommended anyone going out into public wear a mask or other similar covering to reduce exposure. The problem is, masks are largely unavailable – even elastic bands for those hoping to sew their own are hard to find.
A tech company is stepping up to help. San Diego-based OxyStrap, which makes what it calls The Ultimate Fitness Tracker, is completely shifting its business and moving from manufacturing its technology to producing N95 equivalent protective masks to help combat the spread of the virus.
“It is essential that effective protective masks be made available to all U.S. workers as quickly as possible,” says Dr. Ron Gertsch, M.D., vice president, OxyStrap International. “Our current mission is to assist in achieving that goal and we encourage other U.S. companies, large or small, who have the capability, to do likewise.”
OxyStrap is using much of the same equipment it uses to produce its fitness trackers in its California facility to produce the hand-washable, re-usable masks, including die cut machines, sewing machines, and heat presses. While the masks are not FDA approved, Dr. Gertsch tells TMC that the company is using identical material to that used for packaging and sterilizing surgical tools as the microbiological barrier in its masks, which he believes should provide assurances about the masks’ effectiveness.
“The critical elements in producing an N95 equivalent protective mask are a layer of fabric that prevents the transmission of microbiological organisms and a snug fit on the face,” he says.
The company is looking to ramp up its production quickly and is hiring additional staff to accomplish its production goals. It plans on distributing the masks to healthcare workers, food handlers, as well as to the general public and hopes to have them available through its website later this week. The masks will cost $14.50 each, with discounts available for large volumes.
While many tech companies have stepped to the aid of businesses, temporarily offering free solutions to enable teleworking, OxyStrap is looking to help fight the virus on the front lines. Dr. Gertsch believes the path to re-opening the country and economy is not in expanding mass testing. Certainly, testing needs to be part of the process, but controlling its spread is the real need. By shifting its production to protective masks, OxyStrap is looking to not only help deliver a response to the current crisis, but also to set an example of how tech companies can adapt quickly to respond quickly to future outbreaks.
“The best solution to quickly reopen the economy is getting inexpensive, non-disposable N95 equivalent masks in the hands of all U.S. workers,” Gertsch adds. “This isn’t the first infectious disease crisis we have experienced nor will it be the last.”
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