As COVID-19 began spreading in the United States, hospitals, first responders and public health agencies across the country scrambled to meet the threat. For most, acquiring enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep their staff and the public safe was a top priority. But with supplies limited and demand surging, finding the needed equipment was often next to impossible.
“Early on in the CDC Foundation’s COVID-19 emergency response, we were receiving requests from local health departments and health organizations for help,” said Ramot Adeboyejo, emergency response officer for the CDC Foundation. “We connected with partners across the United States and learned that PPE was among the most urgent needs.”
To meet that need, the CDC Foundation teamed up with various corporate donors looking to provide in-kind or financial support. Working with partners like Google, T-Mobile and PPE manufacturer Magid Glove & Safety, the CDC Foundation served as a link between corporations looking to help and frontline workers around the country in desperate need of PPE.
Google, for example, provided an in-kind donation of more than 3 million FFP2 masks in partnership with Magid Glove & Safety early in the response. “This donation was critical as PPE resources were low and harder to access for many health organizations, especially in the spring of 2020,” said Adeboyejo. These masks were sent to health organizations in New Jersey, Rhode Island, U.S. Virgin Islands, Michigan, New York, and many other locations that used the masks for their COVID-19 response.
T-Mobile also provided an in-kind donation of 500,000 disposable face masks that were sent to nine health departments, ranging from Boston to Florida to California, and encouraged their customers to contribute.
“We try to help bridge gaps where needed,” Adeboyejo said. “Some health departments may not have direct connections to PPE suppliers who continuously have items in stock, so we provided PPE items to support their COVID-19 response efforts.”
The CDC Foundation and its corporate partners provided over 7 million pieces of PPE to frontline health workers across the country at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on the need of the health organization, donations ranged in size from 5,000 to more than 250,000 masks, and also included other essentials like hand sanitizer.
For many like Kim Gonzales, executive director of the Las Animas and Huerfano Counties District Health Department in Colorado, such support has been critical. In the summer of 2020, the CDC Foundation provided 100,000 masks and hand sanitizer to Las Animas and Huerfano counties just as COVID-19 cases exploded in the two counties, spiking from eight cases in September to 199 by the end of November.
“This shipment of masks and sanitizer has been amazing,” Gonzales said. “If we didn’t get this, I don’t think we would have kept our cases down as well as we did for those months until October hit.”
Like many small, rural counties across the country, Las Animas and Huerfano faced the pandemic with limited resources, soon exhausted by demand. Having provided the masks and sanitizer to county hospitals, dentists, nursing home staff and other high-risk groups, Gonzales said the PPE they received from the CDC Foundation was quickly put to broader use.
“We were just coming out of a shut-down order, and many of our small businesses didn’t have the ability to purchase masks or hand sanitizer,” Gonzales said. “So we reached out and offered that to all of the businesses between the two counties.”
As COVID-19 takes a terrible toll on the United States, the CDC Foundation continues to serve as a link between generous donors and the frontline workers desperately in need of PPE. For Kim Gonzales and the health care workers in Las Animas and Huerfano counties, the support they received has been a game changer.
“We could not handle this response without the PPE the CDC Foundation provided to us,” Gonzales said. “It’s an amazing opportunity to have found the Foundation to work with.”Close