Statesman (4-3-2020)

SPIBelt, an Austin-based fitness accessory company, has turned from manufacturing fitness belts to store your stuff while running to making masks for personal use.

Founder Kim Overton says she already had all the wicking material and elastic for her belts that can now be used in the masks. The masks are now available for $7.50 on spibelt.com and SPIBelt will begin shipping them out on Monday. She also wants to get them into the hands of people such as grocery store clerks and takeout food delivery people.

“We’re doing our part,” she says.

Overton has been working with Austin Emergency Center CEO Luke Padwick as her medical consultant, and wants to make sure that people understand that these are not medical masks like the N95 mask, but ones for personal use.

“Having any mask prevents the wearer from touching a virus and rubbing it into your mouth,” Padwick says.

If you’re in a room full of other people wearing masks, it will cut down on spreading your cough to another person, he says.

Overton, who has a permanent lung condition that puts her at risk for complications from the virus, says this is especially important to her.

She also is creating an exchange system. As a manufacturer, she was able to order 50,000 disposable masks for the medical community and 500 already-sewn public-grade ones.

She’s trying to get those masks into the hands of people who need them. If you have medical-grade masks, especially the N95 masks, she will exchange those for the ones she’s making, which are public-grade masks. People will be able to go to Austin Emergency Center locations to make that exchange.

Padwick is excited about that possibility. His centers are have tried three different medical equipment companies to get N95 masks and found a six-month waiting period. Right now, they are recycling the ones they have using ultraviolet sterilization, he says. “We’re doing the best we can,” he says.

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