By JENNIKA INGRAM | Reporter
Palisades Charter High School teacher Jamie Agius is working around the clock—donating her time and skills to create filtered masks for Keck School of Medicine of USC and fabric masks to hospitals throughout the country.
The story began on March 31 when Guido Faas, a researcher at UCLA’s Department of Neurology, contacted Agius, a maker education and science teacher at Pali High for the past six years, in an urgent search to find people who could access a 3D printer and help make N95 masks.
“I was super excited,” Agius shared with the Palisadian-Post. She told Faas she would go get the printer right away, and asked him to send files so she could test print and see how it worked out.
When Agius called the school to ask for permission to bring the 3D printer she uses in her classroom home, she said that Principal Dr. Pamela Magee said she was totally for it and that the school was willing to do whatever it could to help doctors and nurses solve the problem of mask shortages.
Ultimately, Agius was not able to provide the school materials, as a UCLA policy prevented them from accepting things that were printed off-campus.
But since her apartment was already set up as a COVID-19 crisis response center, Agius shared she still wanted to help.
“I was on a mission, so I decided to reach out to some contacts,” Agius explained. “I ended up getting in contact with somebody that was very, very helpful, and he put me in touch with the people at USC.”
She began to work with nonprofit Crash Space LA, which helped USC set up hubs around Los Angeles to help the Keck School of Medicine of USC to create more personal protective equipment.
“The hub that I’m working with now is taking care of everything, except now I’m going to start shipping my stuff to USC because I’m not leaving my house,” Agius said. “I’ve been printing 24/7. I set my alarm so if I’m sleeping, I can get up and just real quick push the button to get it going again. I do Dropbox so I don’t have to touch anybody or see anybody.”
Crash Space then takes the printed supplies over to USC.
“We don’t do the assembling, we drop them off in three pieces and then the engineering school there is involved as well, so they’re doing all the putting together,” Agius explained.
If there is a surge of COVID-19 cases in LA, Keck imagines it would need double the amount of disposable PPE it is currently using, Agius explained, which could be up to 2,000 masks and 2,000 face shields per day.
Due to the high demand, Agius accepted Palisadian Amy Sommer’s donation of another 3D printer to use on loan for the duration of the project.
“The other project that I have going on right now that blew up—and I had no idea it was going to,” Agius said, “is that I’m making and shipping free fabric face masks.”
Agius recently started to accept small donations, as the costs are becoming too high.
When Agius heard that doctors in major hospitals in NYC were tying shirts to make masks, she decided to use her skills as a sewer and seamstress and contribute to that effort as well starting on April 5.
“I have made and shipped 600 masks, and I have almost 200 more to make,” Agius said.
More recently, Agius began to give fabric masks to non-frontline UCLA lab workers. She’s donated approximately 60 masks to UCLA so far.
There is also an additional network in LA of doctors and nurses requesting DIY fabric masks for when they leave the hospital. She’s making masks for LA friends and family because, at this point, every single person needs a mask when leaving the house and entering essential businesses.
“I’m getting dozens of emails a day, and everybody’s got a special circumstance,” Agius said.
Isaiah Industries, a roofing and distribution company out of Ohio, donated 1,000 metal nose strips to Agius. She received them on April 25, and now, instead of using pipe cleaner, Agius is using real metal nose strips.
Co-owner Todd Miller told Agius that he began to help when co-owner Kelly Joseph’s 82-year-old mother started making fabric face masks to help people.
“Working around the clock and continuing to teach distance learning with her students is no easy feat,” a news bulletin about Agius on the Pali High website pointed out. Yet Agius shows passion, commitment and enthusiasm for the cause—day and night.
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