As health care professionals wage a battle against COVID-19, protective masks remain scarce. Many doctors and nurses are having to reuse masks several days in a row to try and protect themselves from the deadly coronavirus.
One TV personality is doing her part to shore up supplies, with an initial focus on hospitals in the Boston area.
“Real Housewives of New York City” star Bethenny Frankel has donated or allocated over 1 million masks to hospitals across the country to help protect those fighting the spread of the virus. Among the first hospitals to be serviced by donations are Massachusetts General Hospital and Newton-Wellesley Hospital.
Frankel’s emergency assistance initiative BStrong has partnered with Global Empowerment Mission to compile medical-grade face masks for hospital staffs. The original goal of the relief effort was to construct 20,000 coronavirus kits that included hand sanitizer, hydration kits, gloves, and immunity boosters, but Frankel and her boyfriend, Boston real estate developer and film producer Paul Bernon, soon recognized the larger problem of the mask shortage and got to work.
“We’re getting messages from all over the country,” Frankel said. “I’ve spoken to multiple governors and mayors. We’re just a private sector, but we’re able to move more quickly in most cases than the government can.”
Frankel, who splits her time between New York City and Boston, is no stranger to disaster relief efforts — she established BStrong in response to Hurricane Harvey and has organized relief efforts for the wildfires in Australia and earthquakes in Puerto Rico.
The masks are being sourced from Food and Drug Administration-approved manufacturers worldwide. Frankel collects donations to purchase the masks and distribute them, turning no profit.
Frankel has a personal connection to Newton-Wellesley Hospital, where she was treated last year after going into anaphylactic shock.
“I had an amazing experience, and they literally saved my life,” Frankel said. “My boyfriend called 911 and was able to get Benadryl into me and get me there, and they said that five more minutes and it would have been a different outcome.”
In addition, Frankel will distribute cash cards to those suffering financially from the outbreak and hopes to start distributing self-test kits for COVID-19 as soon as the FDA approves them through BStrong, all with the hope of supporting medical workers.
“They are like the firefighters of 9/11,” Frankel said. “They are walking into a situation where they’re risking their lives for other people and they are unprotected.”