CORONAVIRUS

Businesses can pledge to be 'COVID-conscious' through Iowa City doctor's initiative

Doctor, pharmacist have nationwide ambitions for 'Mask of Wellness'

David Krupp, an emergency room doctor in Iowa City, stands Tuesday in the MedQuarter in Cedar Rapids. As the coronavirus
David Krupp, an emergency room doctor in Iowa City, stands Tuesday in the MedQuarter in Cedar Rapids. As the coronavirus pandemic spread to Iowa, Krupp began an independent effort to get businesses on board with normalizing mask-wearing to slow community spread of the virus. The MedQuarter recently joined in as well. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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David Krupp isn’t getting very much sleep these days.

“I’ve been getting maybe four hours of sleep a night just trying to get all these endeavors taken care of,” he said. “

His impact goes beyond working as an Iowa City emergency room doctor in the midst of a pandemic. In his spare time — aside from those four hours of precious sleep — he developed a way for hundreds of businesses to show they’re being “COVID-conscious.”

The initiative — free for businesses to join — is a way of showing customers the company is prioritizing their safety.

“I was trying to bring about some social change, not just in the ER,” Krupp said. “I knew I could save more lives and help others if I could take a community role.”

By joining Mask of Wellness, businesses are pledging to take three actions:

• Check employees for coronavirus symptoms daily.

• Require employees to wear masks.

• Practice proper hygiene and, when possible, social distancing.

With no easy way to enforce these rules, businesses essentially follow the honor system.

“We’re not guaranteeing that nobody is going to spread the illness,” Krupp said. “We’re trying to take steps to mitigate the spread.”

In late May, Mask of Wellness started an interactive digital directory of businesses involved. One can simply zoom in on the map at maskofwellness.com and see businesses around them being “COVID-conscious.”

The idea started when Krupp faced a conundrum many others have faced during the pandemic — support local businesses or protect his health? Mask of Wellness allows him to help both the “health and wealth of the community at the same time.”

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“There were so many businesses that I wanted to go to, but I had fear like many others had fear about going to businesses,” Krupp said. “If I could get businesses to be COVID-conscious, consumers would seek them out.”

Now Mask of Wellness is gaining interest from economic groups across Iowa.

Recently, Cedar Rapids’ MedQuarter Regional Medical District set a goal of having 80 percent participation in Mask of Wellness to become the first district recognized by Mask of Wellness.

Phil Wasta, executive director of the MedQuarter, said he didn’t want to “reinvent the wheel” when coming up with a way to promote businesses’ safety precautions.

“If we can give them that added level of assurance that the person or people they are going to do business with are doing these protocols and sharing the care for their health when they’re out, it’s a win-win,” Wasta said.

Wasta hopes the district’s involvement with Mask of Wellness gives customers peace of mind when returning to regular, non-pandemic doctor’s appointments.

“The other thing that’s very concerning to us collectively is people delaying care,” Wasta said. “It is safe now to go out and do a checkup at your doctor.”

Some companies from across the country have also joined Mask of Wellness, geographically spanning from California to New Jersey before any national promotion.

Krupp hopes to “cognitively reframe society” nationally to enact virus-conscious practices.

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“It is simple and impactful,” he said. “People can see the benefits in their communities.”

Outside of Mask of Wellness and being an ER physician, Krupp is also trying to develop an easy-to-make negative pressure hood to use while treating coronavirus patients that would “suck the virus right out of the room” with cheap, everyday supplies.

“I kind of took an Apollo 13 method and said, ‘What does every community in the nation have?’” Krupp said.

While gathering supplies to test his invention at a pharmacy, he told pharmacist Robbie Schwenker about his vision for businesses being “COVID-conscious.” Schwenker joined the effort, becoming a co-founder of Mask of Wellness.

“He said, ‘I know a website developer, let’s get this going,’” Krupp said.

Schwenker also reached out to Raygun, which created a logo for Mask of Wellness and merchandise to go with it.

Others have stepped up as volunteers, including Krupp’s sister-in-law who works in health communications. He eventually wants to have a sponsor to pay for a full-time staff member.

“We know that’s necessary to take the marketing steps necessary to allow for nationwide expansion,” Krupp said. “This will improve the wellness of America.”

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The group’s financial goal is to be cost-neutral, Krupp said. As he sees it, it’s a matter of how many lives he can save during the pandemic.

“I can only save a few lives (in the ER),” Krupp said. “With community impact, we have the potential of saving thousands of lives.”

Comments: (319) 398-8394; john.steppe@thegazette.com

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Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.