July 25, 2021
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To fight the spread of COVID-19 infections as millions of Americans travel this holiday season, the nonprofit firm AIP Foundation – which employs disabled workers – manufactured and donated 60,000 disposable facemasks to urban clinics in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, and to rural transit providers in Oregon and New Mexico.

[Above photo via the AIP Foundation]

“Even with a COVID-19 vaccine imminent, clinics and transportation providers will continue to need masks to protect themselves and the communities they serve, especially with the holiday surge in infections,” explained Dr. Bella Dinh-Zarr, a public health consultant and former vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, who volunteers for this project.

Dr. Bella Dinh-Zarr. Photo via the NTSB.

“Health and transportation workers are putting their lives on the line for us every day to provide essential services, so we wanted to show our appreciation by providing a practical donation to protect them and the communities they serve,” she said in a statement.

Road safety nonprofit AIP – which employs disabled workers to make motorcycle and bicycle helmets – redesigned its factory in Vietnam at the start of the COVID-19 epidemic to address the mask shortage.

“When COVID hit, we pivoted from helmets to selling high quality masks at a very low-cost in order to address the PPE [personal protective equipment] shortage, while also helping people with disabilities continue to earn a living wage in a safe environment during this difficult time,” stressed Greig Craft, AIP’s founder and president.

Working with physicians and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, AIP and its U.S. arm, American Protec, donated some 20,000 of those 60,000 facemasks donated to the Oregon Department of Transportation and the New Mexico Department of Transportation specifically for rural transit providers as those providers serve the most vulnerable populations in each state.

“We serve a diverse population in Oregon, including both regular public transportation users like commuters as well as those who wouldn’t have any other way to get where they need to go,” noted Marsha Hoskins, public transportation manager for the Oregon DOT. “This mask donation will make a real difference for riders, as well as for our public transportation providers and their friends and families – particularly in rural portions of the state.”

“The pandemic has expanded our safety concerns for the public and New Mexico’s transit workers,” added David Harris, transit and rail division director for the New Mexico DOT. “These masks are a critical preventive measure and help us to ensure the health and safety of our employees and those we serve.”

“We cannot stand by and allow COVID-19 to disproportionately burden the most vulnerable members of society,” AIP’s Craft emphasized. “We need to support the medical and transportation professionals who are working tirelessly around the clock. This is a time to strengthen our communities by building bridges and these masks are our way of showing that anyone can lend a hand to others.”

editor@aashto.org

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