April 3, 2020
As healthcare professionals continue to face severe supply shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) amid a global pandemic, one of the many makeshift solutions to the problem has been implemented by the winter sports community, The Boston Globe reports.
Skiers and snowboarders, like other sports enthusiasts, had their season cut short by the measures intended to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 outbreak. But thanks to a newly created New England-based organization, they can help pitch in to remedy the shortage of protective medical equipment.
Goggles For Docs is helping companies and individuals donate ski and snowboard goggles to hospitals for use as personal protective equipment (PPE). It was started by Jon Schaefer, co-owner and general manager of Catamount and Berkshire East ski areas.
Schaefer, who led the charge to close ski areas due to the threat of the coronavirus, noted that his heightened awareness was because of direct connections with the healthcare world.
“My wife is a physician’s assistant at Berkshire Medical Center, and there was an early outbreak in Pittsfield,” Schaefer said. “I know a lot of the doctors there. I have a friend who intubated patient zero in Vermont, so I guess I had a direct line to the stress.”
But. he said, the inspiration for the donations came on Saturday, March 28: “A friend of a friend, who is a physician in New York emailed me asking for ski goggles for the health care workers there. That email went out to six of us. Within 20 minutes, I was getting that same email forwarded to me from other friends. All I could think of is, jeez, this doctor is going to get 10,000 pairs of Smith goggles sent to his house and that’s not a very efficient use of resources.”
Schaefer started a Google sheet and a contact list. Pretty soon, the list of hospitals signing up went from one to six. On Sunday morning, he woke up to what seemed like 500 emails.
One of the messages that came to Schaefer, who is, himself, a former Middlebury College Division 1 ski racer, contained a message from Trevor Crist, the CEO of Inntopia — a Stowe-based ski resort software company, offering whatever help was needed in getting things more organized.
“I knew the company, but had never spoken [to] or heard from these guys before,” says Schaefer. “On a return trip from a local grocery, I started fleshing out a website on a phone call with them.” The Goggles for Docs site went online at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
As of Monday evening, March 30, nearly 2,000 used and new goggles were being sent to hospitals in seven states—and requests to organize have come in from hospitals as far away as New Zealand and Spain. On Monday night, ten more hospitals signed up, with a stated need of nearly 1,000 more goggles.
“I’m not sure how it works on their end, but doctors have told me two things: First, that they need goggles as COVID-19 can be transmitted with, say a direct cough to the eyeball, and second, that they can take care of disinfecting and distributing them,” Schaefer said.
While Schaefer’s wife is not currently wearing goggles as her hospital has adequate supplies of eyewear, Schaefer says that Berkshire Medical Center has put in an order for 300 and their need was met by the public with a large contribution, 217, coming from Uvex.
He told The Boston Globe, “What’s crazy about this whole thing is one day we’re all going to meet,” Schaefer said of the hundreds of volunteers. “There’s this whole team that’s developed, and only a handful of us that know each other face to face.
“Everybody wants to help. The one thing I think we did was connect people with a lot of passion to help and a motivated ski community with people that are really asking for help. If anything, maybe in that there’s just a little bit of hope. People are fired up.”
“I didn’t wake up this week thinking I was going to be the COVID Goggle Guy — we have a lot to take care of at our businesses now too,” says Schaefer. “It was just one thing that we as a ski industry could do to help.”
Research contact: @BostonGlobe