In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, founder and CEO of ProjectParalink Edward Aguilar and Shourya Seth and Manu Sures, a trio of high school juniors in an Atlanta, Georgia, suburb, began exploring ways to get personal protective equipment to those who need it.
On June 11, Georgia saw a single-day increase in coronavirus cases of more than 26 percent, reported Lois Parshley on June 17 on the Vox website.
The youths have been building software to get PPE to hospitals in need, but as Edward told Vox, “It’s been frustrating seeing cases rise and the lack of government response.”
“It really does point out the weak points of the whole supply chain,” Shourya said. “It’s almost like a confederacy. We’re not united anymore.”
The teens in early March contacted five collaborative work or maker spaces that often share tools to find a way to get additional PPE to medical workers.
The grassroots organization Paralink came out of that and since April 1 has delivered donated PPE supplies such as face shields to health care providers around the South.
Edward said FEMA delivered 180,000 face shields to Georgia. “We’ve delivered 190,000.” Initially contacting hospitals to make a list of who needed what, Paralink prioritizes shipments using Get Us PPE’s database.
Paralink coordinates more than 50 maker spaces to 3D-print face shields and relies on 150 volunteer drivers to distribute them, Lois reported.
“Aguilar recalled one shipment of 3,000 face shields that urgently needed to get to Albany, New York; within a day, they used Facebook groups to find seven volunteers, who each drove the shipment for several hours in a human chain between Georgia and New York.”
Then, when demand dropped after Georgia locked down, Paralink told some volunteers making face shields that their help wasn’t needed. “Now we need to call back and say we need more,” Edward told Vox. “We’ve had some really tough conversations.”
As of mid-June, Paralink’s requests for face shields recently doubled.
“It’s scary to see we’re not able to keep up production — and we know we can move faster than the federal government. What happens when the government has to make these phone calls to massive companies? How do you tell (manufacturers) that after retooling, they have to stop, or then start again? The backlash won’t be in favor of the manufacturers,” Edward said.
“The focus, as it should be, has been on health care workers, but a lot of (them) are in the same position now and aren’t getting any help. It’s not just people in hospitals. Everyone needs this protection,” Edward said.