Jacqueline Westman and her team at Project PPE – personal protection equipment – are doing their part to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus.
The newly formed organization is making gowns and masks in downtown Los Angeles as fears of contracting the deadly virus penetrate the psyche, raising worries and anxieties, putting millions on edge.
Project PPE is a group of innovative design fields coming together to help medical professionals in dire need of supplies. It started just weeks ago as a joint effort among four best-friends, all of whom work in the industry and have a vast amount of experience between them.
From product development, fabric research to development and design, the four dynamic women – Brittany Walker, Diana Lai, Monica Hernandez and Jacqueline Westman – have all aspects of the endeavor covered.
“We are working together throughout our local communities and businesses to create essentials needed for those on the frontline during this fight against COVID-19,” explained Westman.
In two weeks’ time in April, Project PPE made more than 2,000 face masks and 500 gowns, said Westman, who has the technical know-how, using words like “interlock knit with antimicrobial coating,” “light nylon ripstop,” and “plaus soft twill wovens” describing what might go into the finished products.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDS) has officially recommended that all Americans wear protective masks outside to help curtail the spread of COVID-19. In a release, the CDC, said: “Cloth face covering fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials are low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”
Cities like Los Angeles and New York have recommended all residents wear face coverings in public, whether they’re showing signs of the virus or not. Policy recommendations are coming at a time when surgical facemasks and N95 masks are in a critically short supply. Health officials continue to warn those going outside to don masks, maintain social distancing, remaining 6-feet away from other people, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and disinfecting homes.
“We started making gowns and masks three days after we had a face-time call to action on a Saturday morning on how we can further help with the COVID-19 crisis,” explained Westman. “Being in the fashion industry for over 15 years it was an immediate reaction to network within and use our resources. I had texted a photo of a hospital gown to a dear friend of mine, John Le who is a phenomenal pattern maker, within two hours he called to let me know the pattern was ready. By Sunday I had the patterns I needed and on Monday we were meeting with our first fabric supplier who has been so kind to donate over 300 yards of an antimicrobial knit fabric that we are using for our facemasks. That day we immediately handed off patterns for facemasks to be worked on.”
Project PPE has called on a number of local suppliers who have willingly provided product in a time of need.
The organization’s goal is to fill the gap, donating masks and gowns in communities where local, state and the U.S. government is leaving behind. Masks are being donated to nursing homes, homeless shelters, grocery stores, first responders and more.
“We were able to donate masks to St. Anne’s Women’s Shelter in Los Angeles; Waymakers Youth Shelter in Orange County; My Friends House in Los Angeles; the San Diego Rescue Mission; farm workers in the Central Valley; Costco and Stater Bros. Markets to name just a few,” said Westman, adding that gowns have been distributed to a number of hospitals and health organizations, including Sayana Medical in Studio City, Kaiser Permanente in West LA; Brookdale and SUNY Medical Center both in Brooklyn, New York; and Flagstaff Medical Center in Arizona, currently housing the Navajo/Hopi tribes, some of which are ill with COVID-19.
Never in her 15-year fashion career did Westman think she’d be designing and manufacturing PPE supplies, much less experience a pandemic. “I don’t know what the future holds but after all of this I know for myself certain focuses have shifted,” she said. “I think the fashion industry in general will be completely different. The way consumers buy, everything I hope will change for the good. We are living in unprecedented times – it’s clear to see by simply turning on the news, going on social media, talking amongst friends and family that our world is suffering, there’s hate within our country and issues within our communities. I was raised by a single mother who raised two children on her own. The love I have for my country is a love that was passed down from generations. We all have a platform – and during crucial times as such, we should all do everything we can do to help one another. Be kind to one another.”
Not in her wildest dream did she see this day coming. “Really blows my mind – here we are United States of America,” said Westman. “Greatest country in the world yet it seems like a scene from every horror, pandemic movie we’ve seen or heard about we are now living. I’m grateful for leaders such as Gov. Cuomo in NYC who has literally taken action in every capacity he can helping the state of New York – [California] Gov. Gavin Newsom has reacted in similar ways and also have been proud with the efforts Mayor Eric Garcetti has put into place here in LA.”
Individuals can support Project PPE by donating any amount to group’s GoFundMe Campaign, Westman explaining 100% of the proceeds will be used to pay the wages of professional garment workers who have been recently laid off due to the statewide lockdown, forcing most local fashion companies to shut down businesses.
Their efforts can be followed on social media platforms, including a new website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook “and help share and spread our message,” Westman said. “We have the manufacturing capabilities – the resources, fabric, trims – just really relying on funding at this point. We can produce more!”
Their mission is spelled out at the following:
projectppeact.com and visit their other social media pages:
Westman and others on the team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The pandemic may not be over by a long shot and Westman, like others around her, encourages everyone to “stay home, leave for essentials only and thank our unsung heroes, grocery store workers, janitorial crews, farm workers, mail couriers, restaurants and delivery services and, most importantly, our courageous, selfless doctor’s, nurses who we will forever be indebted to.”