San Antonio startup creates jobs, peace of mind amid pandemic through special face masks

JustAir offers a face mask that filters inhaled and exhaled air

A San Antonio startup is providing peace of mind for those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic by way of medical grade equipment as well as job security for those in the electronic and manufacturing industry.

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio startup is providing peace of mind for those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic by way of medical grade equipment as well as job security for those in the electronic and manufacturing industry.

JustAir developed a face mask that is said to offer more protection than a cloth or surgical mask. At first glance it looks like any other face covering, but take a closer look and you’ll notice two tubes and also hear a motor.

“There are actually four points that hold (up) the mask to the face,” Tony Diamond, consultant for JustAir said. “There’s a silicone bridge over the nose that holds it in place and there’s a frame in front of it that also holds the shape of the mask out, which makes it so your mouth doesn’t come in contact with what houses the filtering device.”

Clients like Dentist Philip Miner said it’s the innovative technology that he was drawn to for the special face mask.

“It basically eliminates a lot of the issues as far as contaminants coming in the mask and contaminants going out of the mask,” said Miner, owner of Miner Dental in North San Antonio.

Miner’s job entails him to be feet and sometimes inches away from people’s mouths, increasing his risk of exposure to viruses, including COVID-19.

The mask features two tubes that connect to a blower pack that’s strapped around the client’s waist. The blower pack houses the innovative technology that Miner said also allows him to breathe more easily.

“The main thing is it keeps me cool, too, and I don’t fog up my scopes,” Miner said.

“JustAir is filtering 99.7% of the pathogens of the exhaled breath as well,” Diamond said. “So, whereas all of the other powered respirators will filter the air going to the air, it does not filter what’s exhaled out into the into the room. JustAir is the only one that actually filters the exhaled air as well as the inhaled air.”

The company, JustAir was created by Dr. Dan Burnett of California and president and CEO of the medical device developing company TheraNova. Local investors made it possible for the startup to make the move to the South.

“The headquarters for operations, production and for shipping is all done right here in San Antonio,” Diamond said.

JustAir’s director of operations, Hugh Goldberg, said working in-house allows them to have better control of the product.

“Being able to get the product quicker, not have to have so much inventory in the pipeline is great, Goldberg said. “It also allows us to be able to make changes to the product.”

A group of employees at JustAir say they were rescued from unemployment during the pandemic.

Nine employees, including interns from UTSA, make up the assembly line that is helping power up the tech scene in San Antonio.

“One (intern) is a biomedical engineer who’s working on advanced manufacturing degree and the other is a mechanical engineer,” Goldberg said. “They help us a lot.”

Employees like María Vaca, Jesse García and María Juárez were hired several months ago, days before being laid off from the local electronic manufacturing company, Season Group, due to COVID-19.

“We called Seasoned Group to do a quote for (our product) and they told us that they were shutting down the plant,” Goldberg said. Although the company couldn’t help JustAir with the production process, they made a connection in a stronger way. Season Group asked if we needed any good electronic assemblers. So, all the people you see here, we were able to rescue from Season Group and reemploy them here.”

Employees like sewist Nohemi Reyna hope the special face mask she also uses daily catches the interest of many, as her livelihood depends on it.

As for Miner, he said the mask has provided peace of mind at the dental office and plans to provide masks to his staff.

“This device has helped us feel more confident in delivering patient care, being safe for our patients, being safe for our teams and safe for our families ultimately,” Miner said.

The device weighs less than three pounds and costs less than $250.

For more information on the special face mask or to place an order, click here.

About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.