As Countywide Directive Takes Effect, Mayor Durkan Launches “Seattle Protects” Online Marketplace to Connect Local Manufacturers and Businesses with Organizations, Communities, and Individuals in Need of Cloth Face Coverings

Seattle Protects Seeks to Help Local Organizations, Businesses, and Nonprofits Struggling to Find Face Coverings at the Scale Necessary to Serve Their Workforce

Seattle (May 19, 2020) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today launched Seattle Protects, a new online marketplace to connect local manufacturers with organizations, businesses, nonprofits, community groups, and individuals in need of cloth face coverings. Seattle Protects is a new economic development and public health effort by the City to encourage local organizations in search of face coverings to purchase from Seattle-region midsize manufacturers and businesses that have pivoted to creating face coverings and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 11, 2020, Public Health – Seattle & King County announced a new directive instructing King County residents to wear cloth face coverings in all indoor public settings and outdoor settings where physical distancing could be difficult, such as farmers markets. Residents must continue to practice good hygiene and continue physical distancing in addition to wearing cloth face coverings.

“Wearing cloth face coverings is part of the new normal, and it’s up to all of us to protect the health and safety of our communities. At the City, we’ve heard from many business owners who are searching to buy both small and large quantities of face coverings. And we’ve also heard from our midsize manufacturers, who are the backbone of Seattle’s economy, that many of them are changing their output to better serve the needs of their customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seattle Protects is an effort to bridge that gap, and make sure that local businesses and communities can get the face coverings they need all while supporting local manufacturers,” said Mayor Durkan.

“Thank you to our local manufacturers who are putting community first and responding to the COVID crisis by shifting their operations to make face masks. We appreciate your efforts to protect our most vulnerable community members. I’m proud to be part of a city that utilizes public and private partnerships to bring an ‘all hands on deck’ attitude to respond to crises,” said Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia).

Seattle-region manufacturers interested in joining the Seattle Protects marketplace must fill out this application and must manufacture masks in accordance with vetted specifications to be considered. These specifications were developed by Kaiser Permanente, Unity Point Health, and Made @ Generate to help ensure all manufacturers amplified on the Seattle Protects marketplace meet health and safety best practices. Once a manufacturer’s application has been approved, they will be added to the Seattle Protects marketplace.

Organizations and businesses interested in purchasing face coverings for their workforce can explore all Seattle Protects manufacturers to find available face coverings that can be customized to meet the needs of their business. Seattle Protects vendors have committed to sell face coverings at a bulk price between $5.00 to $7.00 per face covering. Community members are also able to find manufacturers selling individual face coverings at market price. Many of the manufacturers participating in the Seattle Protects program are women and minority-owned businesses.

Seattle Protects is a collaboration between the Seattle Mayor’s Office, OED, and Seattle Information Technology (ITD). It was made in collaboration with the City of Los Angeles, which launched LA Protects to help Los Angeles residents procure necessary PPE.

“Coronavirus hit Seattle hard. As a company, we wanted to think creatively about how we could best support our communities during this pandemic. We had a stockpile of our napkin fabric available and started cutting it up into masks. Demand has exploded, and we’ve made 60,000 masks so far and donated over 19,000 to low-income families, essential workers, caregivers, and first responders. Our Mask Mission has been exhilarating and exhausting, but we are happy, healthy, and together,” said Tracy Krauter, Owner and Designer of Splash Fabric. 

“In March, SwaddleDesigns converted our Seattle-area baby blanket production facility to manufacture cloth masks,” said Lynette Damir, RN, CEO of SwaddleDesigns.  “We are honored to support the Seattle Protects program to make it easier for businesses to find locally-made, high-quality cloth masks. We offer different colors, styles, and sizes, because we understand it is important for a mask to be comfortable and attractive, as well as effective.”

“I am inundated with emails offering PPE for our businesses. Sorting through these for availability, pricing is time consuming and difficult. Scams are everywhere. It would be immensely helpful to have one place to go to, with information, pricing, and availability for protective face coverings for our staff,” said Tracy Taylor, General Manager of Elliott Bay Book Company.

“This marketplace will make finding the ever elusive and incredibly pricey face covering equipment attainable and affordable for small businesses—mine included. I have peace of mind knowing I can open my business safely and protect my employees and patrons alike,” said Joey Burgess, Owner of Queer Bar & Cuff Complex.

“Community and technology are part of Seattle’s society. We’re proud to continue to foster these connections through this project, said Saad Bashir, Chief Technology Officer for the City of Seattle.

“As the City begins to shift our focus from solely crisis response to reopening and recovery strategies, we must ensure we are setting up our business partners to be successful” said Bobby Lee, Director of the Office of Economic Development. “Workers and patrons must be able to safely engage with one another, and the Seattle Protects marketplace is a great resource to connect businesses, organizations and individuals with the face coverings necessary to safely reopen and navigate towards long term recovery.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that in communities like Seattle and King County, where there is significant community-based transmission, all individuals cover their noses and mouths with a cloth face covering to prevent inadvertently spreading the COVID-19 virus while interacting with others outside their homes when they are unable to maintain six feet of distance. Recognizing that access to face coverings can be a barrier, the City of Seattle is providing over 45,000 free cloth face coverings to community-based organizations that serve immigrants and refugees, older adults, people with disabilities, and people experiencing homelessness. The City will also distribute masks to food banks and meal providers including Seattle Public Schools and Meals on Wheels, and the City will reserve a selection of masks to distribute at the City’s own hygiene centers and shelters.

The community need for face coverings far outweighs what local governments can provide alone. That’s why Mayor Durkan is calling on interested and able members of the public to donate cloth face coverings to help vulnerable communities stay safe and healthy. More information on how to donate cloth face coverings can be found on the Seattle Protects marketplace.

Members of the public with questions about the new countywide face covering directive should visit kingcounty.gov/masks. Please note that N95 masks or other medical-grade masks should not be purchased to comply with this directive; those materials must be reserved for health care workers and first responders on the frontlines. To donate N95 masks or other PPE, please fill out this survey or email the City of Seattle at PPEdonations@seattle.gov.

In addition, it is critical to note that there are valid reasons why some people can’t wear face coverings – please do not discriminate. If you experience or witness harassment or an act of bias, report it to the Seattle Office for Civil Rights Anti-Bias hotline at 206-233-7100. You can also report online at seattle.gov/reportbias. If it is an emergency, please call 9-1-1 immediately. 

The City has also created a comprehensive resource page for residents and small businesses impacted by COVID-19. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.