Boston-based manufacturer EquiFit specializes in designing stylish and technologically advanced products for horses—typically in black.

Now, they’re making one for humans. It’s also black.

Last week as COVID-19 continued its march across the globe, sickening hundreds of thousands and wreaking havoc on health care systems, EquiFit founder and president Alexandra Cherubini felt compelled to do something.

With the company’s operational ties to a medical supply company and expertise in producing high-quality equipment like tendon boots, girths, and saddle pads, she knew there had to be a way EquiFit could help meet a growing demand for protective equipment.

The idea to design and sew protective masks came about after a weekend of texting among Cherubini and her research and development team. By Monday, they were working with medical professionals on a design and within a couple of days began production at their Dedham, MA facility.

At the same time, Cherubini began compiling a list of organizations that could use EquiFit’s hand sewn masks.

“Starting out we wanted to provide a solution for those essential to the medical supply business that we share a facility with,” she explained.

“During our initial research and development stage, the need for masks became even more abundantly clear. We were confident we could switch our production team to provide donations to some healthcare organizations, first responders and other essential workers in our area by repurposing the materials and tools we hand on hand.”

The Essential 3-Ply Face Mask is the result of those efforts. The machine washable mask features three layers—two layers made of 100 percent cotton sandwiching an antimicrobial layer infused with silver—and includes a pocket into which additional protective layers can be inserted.

While the mask will not protect against airborne viruses, like COVID-19, it may help block large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays, or splatter that may contain viruses and bacteria. In addition, a mask can help remind wearers not to touch their mouth or nose, helping to prevent contamination.

“We know that the Essential 3-Ply Face Mask isn’t a replacement for a N95 mask,” said Cherubini, referring to the type of mask that is the gold standard for protection in the healthcare field. 

But in the middle of a pandemic, when there is a shortage of N95 masks, the EquiFit mask can be used to preserve the longevity of an N95 mask.

Perhaps the most compelling feature of the mask is its philanthropic capabilities. When one mask is purchased for personal use, EquiFit donates five to health care workers. (See all of EquiFit’s donation options.)

The first batch of donated masks shipped this week.

“The response so far has been unreal,” said Cherubini. “From reaching out to the healthcare organizations, we had an overwhelming ask from our customers to purchase these masks, so we designed a structure that allows us to scale our donations, satisfy the customer needs and take care of our staff on the frontline.”

Regular handwashing, staying at home to avoid close contact with others and frequently cleaning of high touch surfaces, including masks, with disinfectants are the current COVID-19 prevention best practices.