Ski goggles help medical workers stay safe when battling COVID-19 |

Ski goggles help medical workers stay safe when battling COVID-19

Steamboat Resort is partnering with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club to create a dropoff location for goggles at Howelsen Hill. Goggles for Docs is a program that allows people to mail their old ski goggles to hospitals in need, providing healthcare workers with the personal protective equipment they need while treating patients with COVID-19.
Shelby Reardon

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Goggles for Docs, a program that sends ski goggles to hospitals in need, has quickly become a massive effort to get health care workers the personal protection equipment they need to stay safe when treating patients with COVID-19.

The program’s origin has ties to Steamboat Springs.

As originally reported in Powder Magazine, Michael Halperin, an emergency physician at a busy hospital in the Bronx in New York City, thought of a way to help his colleagues form a stronger barrier between themselves and their contagious patients by wearing ski goggles. And he knew exactly who to call to get some.

Since he was 8 years old, Halperin had been visiting his aunt and uncle Rachel Bellis and Harv Holtzman in Steamboat Springs. If anyone would have extra ski goggles laying around, it was the people of Steamboat.

“He just had a wild idea about the use of ski goggles as facial protection, while there was a lack of PPEs being supplied to the New York area,” Holtzman said. “Whatever supply there was, it wasn’t enough. He was looking for stop gap measures to protect his crew.”

Holtzman mailed Halperin a small batch of goggles and proceeded to email some friends in the ski industry, who then emailed their friends. That’s how the idea reached Jon Schaefer, manager of two ski resorts in Massachusetts. Schaefer started creating a way to track donations. Meanwhile, Halperin was finding more hospitals that wanted goggles.

That was a week ago. 

As word spread, the small idea grew quickly. A website was developed and is used as both a place hospitals can request goggles, and donors can document their contribution. Through Google sheets, donations are tallied and subtracted from the need. When a hospital’s request is filled, donors are directed to the next one in need, ensuring that some hospitals aren’t oversupplied, while others are left without goggles.

“It’s such a satisfying feeling that people rallied,” Holtzman said. “It’s a great example of human nature. There’s some real positive stuff happening.”

As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, more than 18,300 goggles have been donated, while about 1,800 are needed. The numbers are constantly changing, though.

While all health care workers are required to wear masks, many don’t have eye protection. While intubating patients or putting a tube down their throat, so they can breathe through a ventilator, health care workers are often within inches of a person’s face. If the patient coughs or gags during the common procedure and sprays spit, that puts the health care worker at risk. That risk is substantially lower if they have eye protection.

Professional winter athletes, such as snowboarders Red Gerard and Danny Davis, have posted on Instagram about scouring their homes for old goggles and sending them in for Goggles for Docs.

The website gives a step-by-step explanation of how to send in old ski goggles. 

First, select one of the 31 listed states or territories that have requested goggles. Then, write your information, such as how many goggles are being shipped and when. Next, it’s time to prepare the goggles.

Before mailing or dropping off a pair of goggles, donors need to disinfect them. A video on the Goggles for Docs website suggests wiping down or spraying the goggles and putting them in a bag before sending them off to hospitals. 

Steamboat Resort is donating about 100 goggles to the cause. The first batch was collected from employees and the ski area’s lost and found, but the resort plans on getting together another supply of goggles.

“Whenever we can identify a need, we know there are so many needs right now with the pandemic, but where we find a need that we have a specific ability to fulfill, goggles is the perfect match,” said Sarah Jones, director of sustainability and community engagement for Steamboat Resort. “That’s something we have the ability to really help with, and we’re always looking for ways to do that, whether it’s in our community or in the broader, global community or national community.”

The resort is also in the process of partnering with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club to create a drop-off location for goggles. That way, if people don’t have the means or desire to go to the post office and mail them, they can drop off donations and let someone else manage the shipping. 

Donors should keep in mind though, it is faster to mail goggles directly to a hospital, rather than bring them to a drop-off spot.

That being said, Goggles for Docs is looking for more regional coordinators and drop-off locations. As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 15 locations to drop off goggles in Colorado.

If people want to keep their donations more local, they can contribute to the COVID-19 Response Fund through the Yampa Valley Community Foundation.

This story is from the Steamboat Pilot.

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