Nurses and other healthcare providers on the front lines of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic are facing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, face shields, and N95 face masks. But grassroots efforts from citizens and companies are bringing PPE donations or funneling supplies from donors to medical facilities in response to pleas from the healthcare community.  

ONS member Chris Friese, PhD, RN, AOCN®, FAAN, is director of the Center for Improving Patient and Population Health at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor and is promoting a PPE donation drive his colleagues organized for residents and businesses in his area.  

“Nurses are well-poised to lead these efforts in their local communities, given their background and training,” Friese said. “What better way to help than to make sure our frontline healthcare workers are protected?" 

For the first three days of the drive, which began on March 21, 2020, more than 500 donors dropped off supplies. Prior to the public drive, campus laboratories donated supplies. Now faculty facilitating the drive are creating a guide for other hospitals that may want to start similar programs. 

Medical students around the United States partnered with engineers and University of California San Francisco to compile a list of U.S. hospitals in need of supplies on the Donate PPE website, which links prospective donors to each facility’s specific PPE needs and protocol for donations. 

Industries beyond the medical field are also engaging with the public to get PPE to healthcare professionals. 

Zahra Khan, an aerospace engineer from Pasadena, CA, and colleagues formed PPE Link, which began as a way for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals across the United States to donate supplies to hospitals in their areas. PPE Link partnered with the GetUsPPE Coalition to centralize its findings to a database where medical facilities and donors can go for information on making PPE requests or donations. Khan is now focused on targeting STEM professionals who haven’t considered the PPE-compliant supplies in their workplaces. She added that anyone on the front lines, like oncology nurses, who wants to talk with her team about how to quantify this problem and solve it, can contact her through PPE Link

“Every hospital needs stuff,” Khan said. “It’s amazing so many citizens have formed these groups to try to solve the problem, but this is where the public health system is failing.” 

Artists in New York City spearheaded Mask Crusaders, an online form for professionals like nail technicians, builders, and restaurants owners to donate masks, latex gloves, and other supplies they can no longer use while they’re closed during the quarantine mandates. 

Another donation campaign initiated by the general public is Mask Match, which funnels respirators and surgical masks from the public to healthcare professionals. Mask Match is also an option for those in Canada.  

Harbor Freight and 3M are two companies donating PPE supplies to hospitals across the United States.  

“In the United States we are producing 35 million respirators per month; of these, more than 90% are now designated for healthcare workers, with the remaining deployed to other industries also critical in this pandemic, including energy, food and pharmaceutical companies,” 3M Chief Executive Officer Mike Roman said in a March 22 LinkedIn post

According to Harbor Freight spokesperson Swati Pandey, the company is donating 45 million pairs of nitrile gloves, hundreds of thousands of N95 masks, and tens of thousands of face shields to hospitals. Harbor Freight is processing the requests and will begin donating to hospitals with 24-hour emergency rooms on March 27 and will continue through the following week. The public can email Harbor Freight or fill out an online PPE Request Form if their hospital needs supplies. 

“Like all Americans, we’ve been following the news closely and have been inspired by the incredible efforts of healthcare workers across the country,” Pandey said. “We wanted to do what we could to help. We hope that everyone will join us in doing what they can to keep our country healthy.” 

In his LinkedIn post, Roman said 3M also manufactures N95 masks in Europe, Asia, and Latin America and is donating products to the PPE shortage in those respective areas, as well.  

“We’ve ramped up to maximum production levels of N95 respirators and doubled our global output to a rate of more than 1.1 billion per year, or nearly 100 million per month,” Roman said. 

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Bauer, a Canadian-based hockey equipment manufacturer, will produce PPE-compliant face shields at its facilities in Quebec and Liverpool, NY. Bauer's vice president of product innovation, Dan Bourgeois, said the company will try to produce 2,000 protective visors a day.  

“Protection that allows athletes to give everything for their team is our heritage,” Bauer tweeted on March 25. “Right now, we're all on the same team. We're repurposing our facilities to make face shields so that medical professionals battling COVID-19 can safely continue to help those most vulnerable.” 

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