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Hayley Wickenheiser teams up with Ryan Reynolds and Conquer COVID-19 to source supplies in Toronto

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The hockey star, medical student, Maple leafs employee and Canadian Olympian is working to source donated PPE for healthcare workers in Toronto.

UK On Lockdown Due To Coronavirus Pandemic
This is the holy grail.
Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

People want to do something. They want to help. And Hayley Wickenheiser is no different to the rest of us in that respect. She does, however, usually move beyond the wanting stage to the doing stage. She also has the ability to leverage her fame into action.

This was the beginning:

And that original modest ask was picked up by actor Ryan Reynolds, who amplified it and offered a reward as an incentive. On Monday, they got connected with the organization Conquer COVID-19 so they could work within that new structure for collection and distribution:

Conquer COVID-19 is:

The COVID-19 Canada Group (also known as the ‘ConquerCOVID19’ group) is comprised of physicians, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and other volunteers who are working together to ensure frontline workers responsible for the health and wellbeing of Canadians have access to masks, gloves, and other supplies that are essential in treating patients and minimizing the spread of the virus.

They are looking for community help, and they aren’t a charity, no one gets a tax receipt, but if you have supplies they need, they will collect it and distribute it:

What we are looking to source:

  • Masks/Respirators
  • Face shields
  • Ventilators
  • 2-way baby monitors with audio function
  • Tablets
  • Fabric/Mask making material
  • Diapers, formula, and other needs for women’s shelters
  • Equipment and PPE for front line workers in shelters, hospices, nursing homes, etc.

The N95 surgical respirator (mask), the holy grail of personal protective equipment (PPE), is not manufactured in Canada right now. And only one company has sourced the equipment to make them (one machine) and hopes to be up and running in two weeks.

However, N95 respirators are also manufactured for industrial use, and the product is very similar but is not approved for full medical use. They are commonly sold in every hardware store for consumers, painters, woodworkers and other hobbyists and professionals to use to filter out particulate matter during work. Premier Doug Ford acquired 20,000 from Home Depot recently.

3M, the manufacturer of many of these masks and respirators, has a fact sheet that explains the differences between the types, but contains this crucial piece of information that begins with a quote from the US Centers for Disease Control and Preventions’s FAQ on this topic:

“In times of shortage, only healthcare professionals who are working in a sterile field or who may be exposed to high velocity splashes, sprays, or splatters of blood or body fluids should wear these [surgical N95] respirators, such as in operative or procedural settings.” For other workers who will not be performing such surgical procedures or do not need to maintain a sterile field, a standard non-surgical N95 (or equivalent) respirator can be worn to help reduce those workers’ exposure to patient-generated airborne viruses and bacteria.

The difficulty in collecting up these products is finding unused, unexpired respirators still in their packages, collecting them and distributing them. Wickenheiser found that out herself from her friends, and that led to the original Tweet. N95 respirators and other necessary products are out there scattered around, but someone needs to get them to those who need them.

This is exactly the sort of operation she got involved with during the Calgary flood in 2013.

“A few of my friends were talking about wanting to help and they have a company call DeliverGood that helps hook up companies with not-for-profits. We just put together a group of friends and family and called ourselves Team DeliverGood. We started with about 15 people and it grew to about 60 or 70 over the days. We went down into the affected areas, asked if we could help out and basically started ripping down houses that were flooded. You saw it on the news and it was one thing but once you got into the areas and saw how bad the devastation was … it was just unbelievable. It’s really turned into a multiple-week thing and we’ve put together school buses (of volunteers) and they are now headed out to High River which is probably the worst affected area. Tons of people have come together from all walks of life so the response in Calgary has been amazing.”

And now it’s time to bridge the gap again between people who need and people who want to help.