As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the United States, healthcare facilities have run low on critical personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors, nurses and hospital staff. IPsoft Senior Linux Systems Engineer Tomasz Duszyk joined a GoFundMe campaign and grassroots effort created to find and purchase essential masks, gloves and gowns.

Together with various doctors, medical and Ph.D. students, and local friends, Tomasz has started distributing 500,000 surgical masks to Mount Sinai and Elmhurst Hospital in New York City.

They need your support.

In this Q&A, we discuss the campaign with Tomasz and find out more about how we can all lend our voices and funding to this campaign.

Firstly, thank you for what you’re doing! Are you and your family safe and healthy?

I want to believe we are. We started preparations in January when the first news from Wuhan started to come. It feels like it was years ago. Back then we were still able to buy a few N95 masks at Home Depot.

How did you become involved with this campaign?

A friend of mine, Blakesley, an astrophysicist from the Flatiron Institute, called me saying that there was “this organization” of scientists, doctors and students looking for people in the New York City area with a car to transport hospital masks. At first I thought she’s talking about a few boxes, but then emails started to fly, a WhatsApp group was created, and soon we had a group of friends, and soon-to-be friends, coming from different parts of New Jersey and New York City to the warehouse in New Jersey.

When I arrived there I saw 250 boxes that had just flown into the country. Everything was still on pallets, wrapped in the plastic, and it still had airline stickers on it. In front of the warehouse were dozens of cars and SUVs lining up to take the precious load to the destination.

In your own words, why is it important for everyone to contribute to this campaign or a campaign of this nature?

Governments and federal agencies can do only as much as they can as fast as they can. By their very nature, those are very powerful organizations that are extremely slow. Their power is wrapped around in multiple layers of protective red tape. Because of this, their power is becoming their biggest limitation. Powerful but slow. They cannot be here and now and deliver help immediately.

On the other side of the spectrum are organizations like ours. Small, agile, extremely fast. We use our personal networks, our relationships with colleagues and friends who are now working in hospitals across New Jersey and New York to deliver directly where it’s needed, and we do it now.

How are you making sure to stay safe during this process? What is the protocol you’re taking?

We follow World Health Organization and CDC guidelines. We use masks, gloves, and liters of hand sanitizer. We use lots of sanitizing liquid. We use it on our hands, car doors, steering wheels, shoes, boxes, almost everywhere.

How can people get involved beyond just contributing monetarily to this campaign?

I think right now the biggest contribution would be maintaining social distancing. Most epidemiologists are saying that the worst is still ahead of us and we have to do everything to slow down the speed of COVID-19.

I read a brilliant piece that said the following: “Small social chains get large and complex with alarming speed. If your son visits his girlfriend, and you later sneak over for coffee with a neighbor, your neighbor is now connected to the infected office worker that your son’s girlfriend’s mother shook hands with. This sounds silly, it’s not. This is not a joke or a hypothetical. Epidemiologists see it borne out in the data time and time again and no one listens. Conversely, any break in that chain breaks disease transmission along that chain. In contrast to hand-washing and other personal measures, social distancing measures are not about individuals, they are about societies working in unison. These measures also take a long time to see the results.” During “normal” times we are responsible for our lives. Now, we are also responsible for the lives of others. And if that means sitting at home, then let us all do it. Stay safe, and be strong.

Please consider making a donation today to the GoFundMe campaign, if you can. Efforts of people like Tomasz and his friends can make a massive difference to help us all get through these times together.

Learn about IPsoft’s COVID-19 Amelia Assistant.