This article originally appeared on the Plainfield Patch
PLAINFIELD, IL — A local small business owner has decided, amid the coronavirus shut down, to do something useful with his time and materials. Matthew Yassinger, the owner and manufacturer of WavePads Water Rafts in Plainfield, has taken to using his raft components and purchased vinyl sheets to make protective coronavirus masks for healthcare workers and first responders nationwide. Yassinger is offering the masks freely to any takers, and while they are not officially approved by regulatory body in the healthcare sector, Yassinger said he thinks that making something is better than doing nothing.
“I was trying to figure out some way I could use my materials to help out first responders as well as healthcare people… I know there’s a huge shortage of [personal protection equipment],” Yassinger said. “They’re not approved in any way by any certain guidelines, but I know the hospitals are requesting anything they can get their hands on.”
Yassinger’s story – and others like it – both belies the ingenuity and generosity of many Americans during the coronavirus crisis, and highlights just how unprepared much of the U.S.’ healthcare infrastructure was in facing it. All over the country, reports are coming in of communities having to jury-rig or make by hand items that healthcare corporations and government entities could not provide themselves. In New York City, nurses are reportedly wearing trash bags as an alternative to proper protective gowns. In Georgia and Pennsylvania, businesses and residents are being asked to donate sanitary supplies to local hospitals. And across the country, people are making breathing masks out of old bras and shower curtains.
Yassinger’s own masks are made out of a combination of a raft-material headband and a transparent cut-out vinyl sheet that covers the whole face, held together by glue.
“The actual headband part is our material, and then we’re using a vinyl sheet and making shields for nurses, doctors, first responders,” Yassinger said.
It takes about five minutes to make one mask, Yassenger added, and between himself and a few friends, they’ve made somewhere between 500 and 1000 so far. Without any industrial assistance, everything has to be made by hand.
“We’ve kind of transferred our shipping and receiving warehouse here in Plainfield, and I have tables lined up and cutting material, and kind of making a conveyer system, I guess you could say,” Yassinger said.
Already, orders for the masks have come in from first responder units and medical personnel as close as Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn and as far away as New Jersey. While WavePads itself is still technically open for business, Yassenger said much of his time has been dedicated to creating these masks. As he suffers from both diabetes and asthma, the fight against coronavirus is one he said he takes very seriously.
“We’ve got some orders that have come in, but we’re kind of… leaving everything as the governor’s orders are,” he said. “Obviously we don’t want to see this being spread any farther… I got type 1 diabetes, as well as I have asthma, so the farther distance I stay away form large groups of people, the better off, the safer I’m going to be as well.”
The masks, Yassinger repeatedly insisted, are free to anyone who needs them. He expressed anger at other businesses making sanitary supplies or gear for a profit, as well as at those individuals who hoard supplies with the intention of selling them at a jacked-up price to their neighbors. However, he also said that he would accept donations from any person or organization who wanted to fund continued manufacture of the masks.
“We can do cash, we can do check… Quick Pay, Facebook Pay,” Yassinger said.
Those wishing to contact him for more details about getting masks or making a donation can do so at (224) 444-9283, via the WavePads email at wavepads.aol.com, or via the company’s Facebook page. So far, Yassinger said, his masks have already attracted more eyes than he thought they were going to get. He said he hopes they help.
“I didn’t realize the magnitude of attention we were going to get from these, between news and stuff like that…” he said. ” Talking to some of these nurses, they’re like, ‘we don’t have the stuff that we need…’ and that’s kind of where we’re at with things. We’re trying to get as many [masks] as we can out.”
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