Have any old ski goggles lying around? Those goggles can be used right now to help protect health care workers who are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Darien resident Cristina Hermes is collecting ski goggles for a newly created nonprofit organization called Goggles For Docs, whose mission is to get goggles into the hands of healthcare workers who treat COVID-19 patients.

To date, more than 40,000 goggles have been shipped. Yet, almost 3,000 are still needed. For more information, visit gogglesfordocs.com.

Hermes volunteers as a vetting coordinator for Goggles For Docs, vetting requests from hospitals, medical centers, and clinics all over the U.S. and around the world.

“We are focusing on those treating COVID-19 patients who are at high risk of needing ventilation support, or critical care units,” Hermes said.

Both new and used goggles have been donated from businesses and manufacturers, skiers and snowboarders.

Hermes’ home, at 48 Dubois Street, is a drop off location for Goggles for Docs. Goggles must be cleaned and disinfected and placed in a Ziplock bag in a box on her front porch. Hermes will be shipping the goggles to places in need.

The idea

On March 28, an emergency room physician from Jacoby Hospital in New York reached out to the ski world, asking for goggles for eye protection, said Jon Schaefer, who owns Berkshire East Mountain Resort in Mass. and Catamount Ski Area in N.Y. Due to the pandemic, his businesses have been closed since mid-March.

The physician was looking for 300 goggles for his whole team, according to Schaefer.

So, Schaefer reached out to the skiing community, looking for help.

“Over the next 24 hours, we just started building the organization,” he said. “I created a simple spreadsheet to share the information and the product. There was so much interest.”

Within 36 hours of the first request, Goggles For Docs had shipped over 1,600 donated goggles to health care workers.

Requests have come from places such as intensive care units, emergency centers in hospitals, dermatology offices, nursing homes, and dental offices.

Goggles For Docs identifies places of need that also require this equipment, and contacts them.

Schaefer, a Massachusetts resident, said the need for goggles hit close to home as well for him. There was an early outbreak of the virus at Berkshire Medical Center in Massachusetts, where his wife works as a physician’s assistant.

“They had the eighth highest density for the general population of COVID in March,” he said. “I couldn’t do any one thing to help stop it, but it was one little way for me to help my wife.”

Vetting

Hermes, who knew Schaefer previously, quickly got on board to help vet donations and process requests.

She created the initial vetting process and trained Goggles For Doc’s vetting volunteers.

On the website, donors can select the hospitals and facilities for which they want to donate. Hermes works with a team of about ten who determine which hospitals have priority over others.

However, “we take the highest areas at risk and we put them first,” she said.

The focus has been emergency care inside hospitals — “That’s our number one priority,” Hermes said.

All requests are researched to make sure they’re legitimate.

The process is very quick, according to Schaefer.

“We can have a request come in in the morning, vetted in the afternoon, and shipped overnight,” he said. “It could be there the next day.”

There are about 1,300 regional drop off locations, according to Hermes, a mother of two teenagers who works as the executive assistant Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, which is currently closed due to COVID-19.

Goggles verses medical shields

When working during a pandemic, emergency workers prefer ski googles over medical shields to medical shields because they completely cover the eyes on all four sides, Hermes said.

“The close fitting goggle is meant to be warn for months on end,” Schaefer said. “Skiers wear them in adverse conditions.”

Also, goggles are easier to clean than the shields, Hermes added.

Changing need, supplies

The requests for goggles continues to change with the need for them, according to Hermes.

“In the beginning, we were shipping 500, 1,000 at a time to New York City,” Hermes said. “Now, we are getting requests from the middle of the country.”

Hermes said she has put in hours and hours of work for the organization.

“For the last two months, I have been working around the clock, every minute of the day,” Hermes said. “We do a lot of outreach to companies. We reach out to ski resorts around the country.”

Goggles For Docs is partnered with a nonprofit organization called Reverb.org, which hosts live music concerts every Friday at night at 7 p.m. on Facebook. Donations for Goggles for Docs are collected on the Reverb website.

“That’s how they we get money to purchase goggles at a discounted price, if supplies get low,” Hermes said.

“Here to help”

Schaefer said Goggles For Docs will be working as long as the U.S. is practicing “battlefield medicine.”

“We are here to help as long as we are needed,” he said.

He added that it’s “amazing” that Goggles For Docs has helped medical groups, hospitals, and emergency services departments in all 50 states and multiple territories including Chile, Mexico, Canada, Belgium and France.

Hermes said she gets very positive feedback from those who receive the goggles.

“They are so grateful,” Hermes said. “We’re sent pictures of doctors and nurses using the goggles, and thank you notes. They tell us how we have helped them.”

sfox@darientimes.com