Press Release

Dec. 2020

Workers with Disabilities Make and Donate 60,000 Face Masks to Clinics and Transit Providers to Fight Covid Surge

Even with a COVID vaccine imminent, clinics in Washington, DC, and South Los Angeles, and transportation providers in Oregon and New Mexico welcome mask donations to address holiday spike in COVID-19 infections.

Key Highlights:

- Nonprofit helmet factory, employing people with disabilities, retools its machinery to make and donate 60,000 face masks to essential workers in health care and transportation across the nation to help reduce COVID spread during the expected post-holiday surge in infections.

- Even with a COVID vaccine imminent, face masks will continue to be essential to prevent COVID infections across the country. These 60,000 masks will be used in urban clinics in DC and LA serving the highest-risk populations, and for transit providers in Oregon and New Mexico serving vulnerable populations, such as older populations, tribal communities, veterans, and people with disabilities living in rural communities.

- A gesture of support for the holidays, American Protec PPE 4-ply masks are being sent to help prevent COVID-19 infections and show support for essential workers who provide medical care and transportation across our nation and help address the expected post-holiday COVID spike.

Washington, DC; Los Angeles, CA; Salem, Oregon; New Mexico; Tucson, AZ

To fight the spread of Coronavirus infections due to millions planning to travel during the holiday season, a small nonprofit, employing people with disabilities, is doing its part during the COVID pandemic. The Arizona-registered 501(c)3 nonprofit AIP Foundation, which has factories in Vietnam, created the American Protec PPE project to help distribute masks. A large donation of disposable surgical-style masks is being sent to urban clinics in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, CA, and to rural transit providers in Oregon and New Mexico. The donation will arrive just in time for the expected spike in infections following the holidays.

“Even with a COVID-19 vaccine imminent, clinics and transportation providers will continue to need masks to protect themselves and the communities they serve, especially with the holiday surge in infections,” said Dr. Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, MPH, a public health consultant and the former Vice Chairman/Acting Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) who volunteers for the project. “Health and transportation workers are putting their lives on the line for us every day to provide essential services, so we wanted to show our appreciation by providing a practical donation to protect them and the communities they serve.”

The road safety nonprofit, AIP Foundation, which manufactures motorcycle and bicycle helmets, redesigned its wheelchair-accessible factory at the start of the Coronavirus epidemic to address the mask shortage. AIP Foundation’s U.S. arm, American Protec PPE, provides FDA-registered, CEU-certified 4-ply face masks. Most disposable face masks only have 3 layers. American Protec is listed on the COVID-19 Recovery Vendor List for Public Transportation through the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

“When COVID hit, we pivoted from helmets to selling high quality masks at a very low-cost in order to address the PPE shortage, while also helping people with disabilities continue to earn a living wage in a safe environment during this difficult time,” said AIP Foundation/Protec Founder and President Greig Craft, who is also President of the Automobile Association (AA) of Vietnam.

The U.S. toll from COVID has passed 275,000 lives lost and deaths per day are the highest since the start of the pandemic with up to 3000 Americans dying every day due to COVID. Infection and death rates are expected to increase over the holidays due to more travel and gatherings. With the expected rise in COVID cases this winter, American Protec wanted to donate masks to both urban clinics and to rural transit providers who would be most at risk.

Working with physicians and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), American Protec made their donation of 60,000 masks to four organizations in four locations across the country serving their at-risk communities through medical care or transportation.

Twenty thousand masks are arriving at Unity Health Care in Washington, DC, and twenty thousand more masks will be arriving at Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles, California. Both are high-volume urban community clinics serving high-risk patient populations regardless of ability to pay. An additional twenty thousand masks are being sent to be shared by the Oregon Department of Transportation and the New Mexico Department of Transportation, specifically to rural transit providers because they serve the most vulnerable populations in each state.

For over 35 years, Unity Health Care has provided health services to meet the needs of the most vulnerable populations in the DC area. “In my 20-plus years as a doctor, I have never seen a more dire situation than COVID, both for medical staff and for patients,” said Dr. Robert Zarr, MD, MPH, a pediatrician at Unity Health Care. “Having masks readily available helps immediately decrease transmission of this deadly virus within our clinic walls, but it also gives us a sense of security that we all are doing our part to reduce the risk of infection. My colleagues and I appreciate this practical and generous gesture of goodwill.”

“We have more patients coming in for care due to COVID-19 and, at the same time, our staff is smaller because the virus has affected our own team members,” said Dr. Jerry Abraham, MD, MPH, a family medicine physician at Kedren Community Health Center, Inc. which provides mental and primary care for residents of South Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. “With the holidays coming up, these masks will help provide vital protection as COVID rates rise in our communities,” Dr. Abraham added.

The Oregon Department of Transportation’s Public Transportation Division supports transit agencies large and small, all across the state, serving urban and rural populations with fixed, on-demand and special transportation options. The division’s purpose is to further the state's goal for residents to have transportation choices so they can live independently and participate in the economy.

“We serve a diverse population in Oregon, including both regular public transportation users like commuters as well as those who wouldn’t have any other way to get where they need to go,” said ODOT’s Marsha Hoskins. “This mask donation will make a real difference for riders, as well as for our public transportation providers and their friends and families, particularly in rural portions of the state. Thank you, AIP Foundation/Protec!”

The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) and the transit agencies of New Mexico provide affordable and reliable transportation in urban and rural areas for veterans, seniors, individuals with disabilities, and the general public. Over 14 million passenger trips are taken every year. The quality of life for many New Mexicans is vastly improved by the availability of affordable and reliable public transportation. “Safety is a core value of NMDOT. The pandemic has expanded our safety concerns for the public and New Mexico’s transit workers. The masks are a critical preventive measure and help us to ensure the health and safety of our employees and those we serve, “ stated NMDOT Transit and Rail Division Director David Harris.

AIP Foundation President Greig Craft expressed, "We cannot stand by and allow COVID-19 to disproportionately burden the most vulnerable members of society. We need to support the medical and transportation professionals who are working tirelessly around the clock. This is a time to strengthen our communities by building bridges and these masks are our way of showing that anyone can lend a hand to others.”

About American Protec PPE

American Protec PPE is a social enterprise established by the nonprofit AIP Foundation to produce ethically sourced helmets and face masks and employ people with disabilities. Registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in Tucson, AZ, the factory is located in Vinh Phuc, Vietnam, and the employees are dedicated to producing high quality helmets and “good masks for a good cause”. All profits are reinvested to provide fair wages and to make donations of both helmets and masks to those in need. Fostering a socially inclusive workplace, the state-of-the-art factory is wheelchair accessible and employs people with and without disabilities.

About Unity Health Care

Established over 35 years ago and with deep roots in the community, Unity Health Care is the largest network of community health centers in Washington, D.C., and provides a full range of health and human services at 20 different sites. The compassionate and multicultural health professionals provide care to 101,000 patients through 457,000 visits annually, regardless of ability to pay.

About Kedren Community Health Center

Kedren was founded in 1965 in the aftermath of the Los Angeles Watts uprising, which marked a period of significant conflict due to racial discrimination, persistent poverty, and community divisions. In response, the medical center aimed to build healthier and stronger communities by serving marginalized groups and providing comprehensive and inclusive care for inner city residents. In the months following the COVID-19 outbreak, the health center has provided free testing for communities in an effort to protect residents and reduce community spread.

About the Oregon Department of Transportation

ODOT is committed to providing equal access to their facilities, programs and services. They use innovative program design and technologies to solve transportation problems. They are dedicated to serving the rural, tribal, and general population of Oregon.

About the New Mexico Department of Transportation

The New Mexico Department of Transportation provides safe and efficient systems for the traveling public, while promoting economic development and preserving the environment of New Mexico.