Rancho Santa Fe native assists effort to supply SoCal hospitals with masks

Staff members at MLK Community Hospital in South L.A. were the first to receive masks donated by SoCal Tech for SoCal Hospitals.

A Rancho Santa Fe native has been helping with a fundraising effort to get more face masks to health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.

SoCal Tech for SoCal Hospitals raised more than $100,000 and ordered tens of thousands of masks so far that have been donated to Los Angeles hospitals, including Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. The group is trying to order up to 100,000 more KN95 masks by early May to be split among San Diego, L.A., Santa Barbara and Palm Springs.

“I’ve been focusing on expanding our outreach to San Diego, so I’ve been the San Diego lead on that front,” said Max Jorgensen, who grew up in Rancho Santa Fe before moving to Los Angeles for work.

His parents and sister still live in Rancho Santa Fe.

“It’s a place that’s obviously near and dear to my heart,” he said. “Everyone needs help, and we just wanted to extend our outreach.”

The effort is made possible in part by Jiake Liu, founder of outdoor furniture company Outer. He helped set up the supply chain to bring the masks from China to the U.S.

“Another member of our team has a few contacts at San Diego hospitals that we’ll be working through to determine which of those we’ll be donating to and how many masks each will be allocated,” Jorgensen said.

Shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers across the U.S. have left them vulnerable to infection from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Many hospitals have been encouraging donations of PPE.

“People are really understanding that hospitals and other organizations that are providing care are really struggling,” said Jorgensen, referring to the PPE shortages some of them face.

He has been reaching out to companies and individuals in San Diego to gain more support for the initiative.

SoCal Tech for SoCal Hospitals started out by raising about $60,000 in less than one week in late March. By the beginning of April, the group had placed its first order of 30,000 masks. The first delivery of 1,000 masks, which went to Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in South Los Angeles, took place April 9.

“It’s been a big group effort,” Jorgensen said.

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