Jefferson Awards for Public ServiceBy Sharon Chin

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — A San Jose woman has been closing a critical gap in the coronavirus pandemic – how to quickly get PPE from donors to recipients.

Jessica Choi and her volunteers have helped deliver more than 850,000 pieces of PPE to frontline workers in every state in the nation.

“Sometimes they would cry on the phone when we reach out to them,” Choi said. “That really touches me.”

She developed the website GetPPE.org in late March after hearing how her relatives in the medical field couldn’t find PPE as COVID cases surged.

“They had to put them in paper bags and write their names on it so they can keep on using them for a week because they were in such short supply,” Choi said.

Choi, an executive at a Santa Clara education technology company, managed to build the basic website in one weekend. She had no programming experience, so she researched online.

“I had to learn from scratch on what to do,” she said.

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Then a colleague at work helped built the algorithm for the website that connects PPE donors with those who need the equipment. The match is based on geography and areas hardest hit by the coronavirus.

Both donors and recipients are vetted by GetPPE volunteers. So far more than 40,000 volunteers have helped ship essentials like masks, gowns, gloves, and hand sanitizer to more than 540 hospitals, nursing homes, food pantries and schools.

Dr. AnnMarie Muramoto received 100 face shields at her dental practice, Kona Ohana Dental, on Hawaii’s Big Island.

“We couldn’t find enough. We were getting the 3D printed ones and they were breaking really easily,” Dr. Muramoto said. “They were lifesavers. They really came through for us.”

And donors like Tiffany Herbert in Colorado Springs get a chance to give. She’s sewn more than 3,000 free masks and scrub caps for hospitals and senior living facilities in more than twenty states.

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Some of them send her photos of themselves wearing the PPE she’s sewn, and she’s posted the pictures on the wall behind her.

“The pictures behind me and the cards that I get from the people I send masks to, I face that when I sew and that keeps me going,” Herbert said.

She applauds Choi’s initiative in launching GetPPE.org.

“I’m so proud of her and what she’s done,” Herbert said.

So for developing an efficient way to match PPE donors to recipients, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Jessica Choi.

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