Del Mar group helps provide masks to healthcare workers in Tijuana and San Diego

Masks Across the Border has helped supply health care workers in Tijuana with PPE.

Two sisters in Del Mar have been leading an initiative to provide face masks and other supplies to healthcare workers in Tijuana and San Diego, where the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic quickly depleted resources over the past year.

“We did that because we just saw how bad the cases were there, and we also wanted to help our sister city out,” said Annika Zimmerer, 16, a Torrey Pines High School student.

She started the initiative, Masks Across the Border, with her sister, Sophia, 14, a student at Canyon Crest Academy. They began their work in March, shortly after the pandemic began, and it has led to thousands of dollars raised and thousands of masks distributed to facilities that needed them.

“A lot of the workers in Tijuana are also connected with the San Diego community as well,” Sophia said. “We wanted to help.”

She added that “There are so many workers who need so much supplies, they were really running low. They were happy to receive all the shipments so they can continue to work safely.”

In addition to Tijuana, they’ve also delivered masks and face shields to local nursing homes.

“They’re all super happy and really grateful for our cause, especially the nurses and all the healthcare workers,” Annika said.

One of their early events included a delivery of more than 1,000 face masks, reusable and washable, to the Tijuana Red Cross last May. Similar events were held over the summer.

The total number of deaths from COVID-19 in San Diego County is more than 1,600 as of the beginning of this week, according to county data. Tijuana has also suffered from rising cases, overburdened healthcare systems and a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). A few medical workers in Baja California have died as a result of the crisis, according to media reports.

Many nonprofits and other types of initiatives have emerged to donate masks, print 3D masks, raise funds or undertake other efforts to support healthcare workers and segments of the population that are more vulnerable to contracting the virus.

Masks Across the Border has expanded its reach by partnering with Last Mile San Diego, a local effort to get more personal protective equipment to frontline healthcare workers. Annika said they “want to keep helping people for as long as this pandemic lasts.”

The organization continues to seek monetary donations, including through a GoFundMe page, and face masks and other supplies.

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