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Coronavirus Protection: Pilot Flies Face Shields From Mass. To Navajo Nation

BOSTON (CBS) - For the past month, Chad Bennett and a team of volunteers have been making face shields to protect hospital workers. They've been used at local hospitals, and hospitals in New York, but this week Bennett received a call from someone in New Mexico looking to help the Navajo Nation. Bennett said the caller sounded desperate for help, telling him, "we need shields, we're in a bad bad way."

Bennett says the call opened his eyes to a dire situation facing Native Americans living on reservations. Longstanding issues such as overcrowded housing and inadequate healthcare within Native American communities make them one of the most at-risk groups of the coronavirus crisis. "It's a very, very poor part of the country, and I think most of us don't really understand," said Bennett. "If just one person gets it there, they're all going to get it, especially the at-risk people. It's a death sentence for them."

So Bennett knew he wanted to help, but he had no idea how to get 1,000 face shields to New Mexico. "Massachusetts, this area, we've mainly been driving them," said Bennett. "Sometimes hospitals will come and pick them up."

Dale Swanson
Pilot Dale Swanson is flying medical masks from Mass. to Navajo Nation (Image credit Nick Emmons/WBZ)

This shipment, though, would require much more. The cost to simply mail the shields was too expensive, so he turned to Facebook and came across a group called AERObridge. Its an organization that taps into a network of private pilots to transport critical supplies during disasters and other emergencies.

Dale Swanson, a pilot from Maryland answered the call. "It's a pretty daunting flight," said Swanson, "1,700 nautical miles."

charlestown face shield
A Charlestown organization is making face shields for health care workers (Photo credit: Charlestown Face Shield Project)

Swanson flew his twin engine aircraft to Hanscom Airfield Friday to pick up 1,000 shields destined for Navajo Nation. "I thought, well, I'll pitch in, I'll take whatever boxes I can," he said. Swanson owns the plane and is paying for the fuel himself.

The trip will take about four days round trip, but Swanson's efforts could save countless lives. "That was a godsend," said Bennett. "These people are amazing."

You can donate to the Charlestown Face Shield Project on their GoFundMe page.

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