Wisconsin Public Radio

MaskUpMKE Has Made 1.5 Million Masks

Initiative by local health and community groups pushing to make, distribute 2.5 million.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - May 18th, 2020 08:55 am
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Gee Gee Jannene sews a mask. Photo by Dean Jannene.

Gee Gee Jannene sews a mask. Photo by Dean Jannene.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Milwaukee-based health and community groups have come together to create the MaskUpMKE initiative. The goal of the project is to get more face masks into the hands of first responders and community members.

Since launching MaskUpMKE in late April, nearly 1.5 million face coverings have been made for the community. The goal is to distribute 2.5 million throughout the community according to Alex Lasry, senior vice president of the Milwaukee Bucks, one of the organizations involved in the initiative.

“I think there are a lot of people that are seeing what this virus is doing around the country and how important it is to ensure we are all fighting this together,” Lasry said. “MaskUpMKE is one of those ways where we can help fight this together.”

MaskUpMKE provides kits containing materials and instructions to make 700 face coverings and each covering takes only one to two minutes to make.

More than 1,100 community volunteers have put in 21,000 hours assembling the face coverings. The last day for volunteers to register to pick up the kits is Monday, May 18.

Volunteers must meet specific requirements to be eligible to assemble the masks such as not testing positive for COVID-19 at any time, not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms in the past four weeks, and not being in contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Health care workers who have been in contact with patients and essential workers who are in daily contact with the public also can’t help produce the masks.

The organizations responsible for the MaskUpMKE collaboration include: United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, Rebel Converting LLC, the Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum, Medical College of Wisconsin, Zilber Family Foundation, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity, and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County are handling volunteer coordination through their website, while Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity is handling the distribution of finished face coverings.

The Medical College of Wisconsin is providing oversight and advising on public health aspects; and Fiserv Forum serves as the site for kit delivery and pick up.

“When there is a call to action the community comes together and helps that call to action succeed,” Lasry said. “I think we’ve seen that here.”

Rebel Converting is a Saukville-based manufacturer of hospital-grade disinfectant wipes. The company is responsible for creating and donating the face covering kits for the program.

Rebel Converting is committed to donating materials to make 3.5 million face coverings to help meet the needs for person protective equipment according to Thaddeus Kryshak, assistant engineer at Rebel Converting.

“Face masks aren’t an excuse to not socially distance and you still have to wash your hands and do all the other CDC guidelines for them to be effective,” Kryshak explained.

Rebel Converting started producing materials for the kits at the beginning of April.

Other community partners include UniteMKE, the MKE Civic Response Team, the City of Milwaukee Health Department, Ignite Change, Just One More Ministry, and Boelter Lincoln.

Medical professionals and nonprofit organizations can request face covering at www.MaskUpMKE.org/request.

The last day to drop off completed face coverings at Fiserv Forum is May 23.

‘There have been reports that say if people were wearing masks, you’d see cases of spread decline significantly,” Lasry said. “For us to be able to produce and assemble 1.5 million masks and be able to get them out into the community I think that is a huge step forward in Milwaukee being able to fight this virus and eventually reopen again.”

Listen to the WPR report here.

MaskUpMKE: Milwaukee Organizations, Volunteers Team Up To Produce Face Masks was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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