SAN MARCOS — The Rock Church and the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services (OES) are leading an initiative to repair expired N95 masks to be used by health care workers.
In the wake of severe shortages of medical supplies in hospitals across the country, volunteers in San Diego are showing up to help repair the elastic bands on 300,000 masks that had been in county storage.
“We’re very involved in serving the needs of the community and we have an ongoing relationship with the OES to meet those needs,” said Mickey Stonier, assistant pastor at the Rock Church. “So, when the OES and the health department came to the realization that they had 300,000 N95 masks in need of repair, they immediately asked us to mobilize volunteers for an essential service to the county.”
According to the OES, these N95 masks are beyond the manufacturer’s date, but once the eroding elastic bands are replaced, they will be fully functional and safe for health care professionals.
“These respirators have been approved for use by the Centers for Disease Control,” said Craig Sturak, a spokesperson for the OES. “With new bands, these masks will be used during the current COVID-19 response to protect health care workers as appropriate.”
Currently, the Rock Church sees up to 200 volunteers a day at both of the project’s locations in Point Loma and San Marcos.
Volunteers at each site are required to adhere to guidelines concerning health screenings, social distancing and wearing masks and gloves. There are also sanitizing stations located throughout both workspaces.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Stonier said. “In fact, we have been contacted by other counties that have a million masks that need the same repairs. They’ve asked for a template to follow and where to purchase the elastic bands they need. So, we’re helping other counties follow our example.”
Stonier told The Coast News that this project will last several weeks at the rate they are working. However, the Rock Church is open to additional projects that might come their way.
“We’re all about establishing hope, and this has been a great opportunity to provide an encouraging message to the county of what happens when people really help each other,” Stonier said. “It’s not about the Rock, it’s not about any organization, it’s about us all pulling together.”