OCEANSIDE — When Dr. Amy Aminlari contracted COVID-19 in March 2020, she realized how severe the lack of personal protective equipment for health care and frontline pandemic workers was.
“I was sick for two months — my oxygen levels were low and my heart rate was really high,” Aminlari said. “I got pretty significantly sick and I think it had to do with the lack of N95 masks at the hospital.”
Aminlari, a North County emergency physician who lives in Encinitas, started Last Mile San Diego to address the lack of N95 masks and other equipment for frontline health care workers during the pandemic.
After nearly a year of growing her grassroots organization and collecting personal protective equipment (also known as PPE) donations, Aminlari has now organized a large shipment of donated supplies to go to Oceanside and other regional cities.
On Feb. 19, Aminlari gave the City of Oceanside 72,000 donated half-liter hand sanitizers and 2,400 infrared thermometers through her organization, which aims to increase personal protective equipment stock across the county.
Aminlari worked with groups like Murphy’s Produce, labor unions like the Teamsters and Ironworkers and the Oceanside Unified School District to make it happen. The Teamsters Local 542 got drivers from ABF and UPS Freight to help drive the huge shipment from Santa Ana to San Diego County, and volunteers from Ironworkers Local 229 and Murphy’s Produce helped unload the shipment for storage at Oceanside High School.
Both Oceanside and National City in South County have received personal protective equipment from Last Mile San Diego donations. It was National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis who put Aminlari in touch with Oceanside Mayor Esther Sanchez in the first place.
“I’m so grateful to Dr. Amy and Last Mile San Diego, Murphy’s, OHS and the Ironworkers and Teamsters for making this happen,” Sanchez said.
Last Mile San Diego has been working closely with the City of Oceanside to identify places of need for the donated personal protective equipment. These materials will be distributed to various areas of need and organizations throughout the city, including the Crown Heights, Chavez and Libby Lake Resource Centers, the John Landis Recreation Center, El Corazon Senior Center, Vista Community Clinic, the Oceanside Police Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), skilled nursing facilities and more.
“Our mission is to reach people who are most at risk,” Aminlari said. “People who are in need and under-resourced and underserved.”
Additionally, the city plans to do “walk-throughs” of neighborhoods like Crown Heights to distribute personal protective equipment kits, including sanitizers, thermometers and masks for community members.
“We’re going to get this out to the community,” Sanchez said.
Last Mile San Diego also recently donated about 5,000 masks to OUSD nurses and health care staff.
Because COVID-19 is airborne, ventilation is a key part of keeping people safe. Aminlari said many people who live in these neighborhoods deal with poor ventilation, and many workers are stuck in facilities with improper ventilation as well.
People of color make up about half of Oceanside’s population. For people of color, Aminlari said, the risk of death is much higher.
“If you are black or Latinx, your chances of dying from COVID is almost tripled,” Aminlari said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), black people are 2.9 times more likely and Latinx people 3.2 times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 compared with white people. Additionally, black people are 1.9 times and Latinx people 2.3 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people.
Last Mile San Diego also makes personal protective equipment donations to Tijuana, having recently donated kits to Red Cross workers there.
“They’re our neighbor and what happens to them happens to us,” Aminlari said.
Sanchez and Aminlari would like to see more donated personal protective equipment go to nearby North County cities like Vista, San Marcos and Escondido, where COVID rates are still high.
“This will definitely save lives,” Sanchez said.