Sask. man on a crusade in search of masks, protective equipment

Michael Scissons is the mask crusader. The Saskatchewan man is on a crusade in search of personal protective equipment for health-care workers.

Michael Scissons is the mask crusader

Saskatchewan's Michael Scissons helped get thousands of N95 masks into the hands of health-care professionals in New York. (Michael Scissons)

Inheriting a trait from his late father, a Saskatchewan man is now a crusader in the search for personal protective equipment (PPE).

"In terms of a lot of things there's always a balance between being crazy and paranoid and being right and prepared," said Michael Scissons.

After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan, Scissons moved to New York where he works as a venture capitalist and a self described internet entrepreneur.

But then early this year, a developing health crisis diverted his attention.

When COVID-19 started making news in January, Scissons instinctively started collecting masks. Scissons' said his "paranoia" came from his dad, a polio survivor with a fear of pandemics.

"Whenever there was something — SARS is the most recent one that I remember — he was always the first one to get prepared and I would always think he was crazy. I think his Saskatchewan polio preparedness very much kind of stuck with me, so when I saw it coming (COVID-19) I just kind of instinctively started to prepare."

Scissons wound up getting his hands on a stockpile of N95 surgical masks. 

But with the demand for PPE growing daily, Scissons donated his modest collection of 30 masks to a hospital at New York University.

"A nurse literally ran after the car to thank me with tears in her eyes. I knew I needed to do more until the government catches up."

Michael Scissons inherited his preparedness traits from his father, a Saskatchewan polio survivor. (Michael Scissons)

From his relationships with friends in various companies, Scissons managed to track down 10,000 masks and 7,000 gloves which he also delivered to NYU.

When he later heard of similar concerns in his hometown of Saskatoon, he offered his services to health authorities in Saskatchewan.

"I fear that it will come for Saskatchewan in a real way and that the medical system will need significantly more protective supplies than they have," Scissons wrote on a GoFundMe page launched recently.

However, the worldwide demand for masks and other supplies became fierce. The marketplace changed and there were price fluctuations in what became a bidding war.

Scissons wasn't sure he could deliver on commitments, so he changed his tactics, using connections he has with people on the ground in Asia who are searching for personal protection equipment.

"I would rather just help broker the existing groups that are trying to do great things," he said. "And take advantage of some of these relationships I've been able to build in the last month."

I fear that it will come for Saskatchewan in a real way and that the medical system will need significantly more protective supplies than they have.- Michael Scissons

Now that Scissons has a greater handle on the challenges and where the supplies are, he can offer his services to get them into the hands of the health care professionals who need them.

"It went from a world that didn't have a lot to a world today where it's really all hands on deck, from people at home selling masks to Warren Buffett sending a plane full of masks into New York."

Scisssons said his efforts pale in comparison to the American business magnate, but he's doing his bit. He has 3,000 N95 masks being delivered to Saskatchewan, the cost of which exceeded what he had raised from the GoFundMe page.

He covered the difference. He feels industry can do more.

"Whether it's nail salons, whether it's mines, whether it's construction companies, if there are people who have that personal protection equipment, to get them into the medical supply chain before they are really needed."