By Unnati Gupta
As the country begins to reopen, the need for PPE has become masked and underrepresented. What started out as a shortage of N-95 masks has turned into an urgent need for gowns and shields. Something Labs, a nonprofit organization started in San Francisco and dedicated to providing PPE to essential workers, recognized the need for individuals providing PPE to understand and adapt to the changes in demand. Their story stems from a passion to share knowledge, resources, and hope.
When Eda Altiok (who has worked with GetUsPPE as a partnership lead since March) and her housemates heard stories regarding the desperate need for PPE in hospitals, they came together to do something—make a difference. Working out of their home, they began by producing face shields and distributing them in the Bay Area. Soon, a few prototypes became an organization providing PPE to essential workers around the country.
As the need for PPE continued to rise, the housemates (who lovingly call their home the Octagon) started a GoFundMe to create Something Labs, an organization dedicated to helping bridge the gaps between PPE supply chains and medical systems. They recruited volunteers to produce shields in larger numbers, and at a faster pace. As outreach grew, so did their desire to help make a difference.
Something Labs is a team that is producing PPE, facilitating donation drop-offs, conducting outreach, and more. They have two separate lines of manufacturing: Controlled Air Purifying Respirator (CAPR) production and gown production, and staff have spent countless hours working on product design and strategy. When supplies are ready to deliver, Eda connects Something Labs to healthcare organizations in the Bay Area and across the country to identify how much, and what type, of PPE they need.
Although they started with face shields, Something Labs has grown to meet the changing needs of hospitals. Recently that need has centered around CAPR shields. CAPR shields are a protection system that pulls air through a viral filter and streams it over the face, allowing healthcare workers to breath virus-free air in any setting. When the demand for CAPR shields and gowns went up, they quickly consulted with engineers, began production, and hired more workers to produce these high-demand PPE items. Oftentimes, these jobs have helped provide security for individuals who have lost their source of income during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, Something Labs received a grant from GetUsPPE to support CAPR shield production and distribution in multiple states, as well as Native American nations. With another GetUsPPE grant to produce gowns, Something Labs dedicated a third of their supply for the Bay Area and a third to go to Native Nations. With the support of GetUsPPE, Something Labs could identify emerging hotspots, as well as healthcare centers, in desperate need of supplies. They also worked with GetUsPPE affiliates in multiple cities to facilitate delivery of PPE shipments.
What started from a few face shields and a simple question: “Can’t we do something?” has grown into a mission to get PPE into the hands of healthcare workers around the country. Currently, Something Labs is creating multiple types of PPE along with CAPR shields, such as intubation boxes, ventilator connectors, sneeze guards, and window masks. To provide resources for community members to get involved, they made public multiple designs for PPE items and have created a page on how other community members can step up and get involved.
Join Something Labs to help engineer, drive, assemble, motivate, and more. Donate or volunteer to continue providing Something Labs with the tools necessary to produce and provide life-saving equipment.
Something Labs has created over 17,000 CAPR shields and almost 27,000 face shields. Their outreach has delivered to 175 different locations within the Bay Area and across the United States.