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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Finding PPE In Unlikely Places: How Area Organizations Are Stepping Up

Courtesy of Cincinnati Museum Center
Supplies from Cincinnati Museum Center were dropped off at area hospitals Wednesday, March 25.

The Washington National Cathedral in the nation's capital made an unusual donation this week. It found more than 5,000 surgical masks tucked away in its crypt, stockpiled from a health scare around 2006.That prompted WVXU to wonder if there might be some personal protective equipment supplies lying around Greater Cincinnati, unused.

"Some of our exhibit team members realized that they had material that could be utilized by the hospitals," says Cincinnati Museum Center CEO Elizabeth Pierce. "Face masks that we would typically use for exhibit fabrication and other materials that could be donated."

She says a box of items was sent to Children's Hospital through an employee's family connection. That led them to think about what else they may have to donate.

"We had ordered a number of supplies that we're not using now during closure," Pierce says. "We were able to share cases of wipes and pump action sanitizer and Purell and several boxes of gloves with both the University of Cincinnati Health Center and TriHealth."

They also donated masks.

"We're just happy that we could do that because they need them more urgently than we do," she adds.

The Cincinnati Art Museum also went through its supplies and came up with items to donate.

"We have 1,700 pairs of gloves that we use in our conservation department as well as 160 masks," says Jill Dunne, director of marketing and communication.

Those items will soon be in the hands of employees at a local hospital.

The art museum's four conservators normally use those materials when doing restoration work on paintings, sculptures and other pieces.

"We did donate the food from our Terrace Cafe, which is obviously closed right now, to La Soupe," Dunne adds. "We're working with them to ensure all the food didn't go to waste and could be used during this time."

Several of Cincinnati's largest construction firms also heeded the call to donate what they could spare.

"Turner Construction donated all the masks we had to local hospitals and to the city for first responders," David M. Spaulding, vice president and general manager tells WVXU. "We also asked trade contractors to pitch in for that effort as well."

At HGC, spokesman Paul Moran says the firm doesn't have N95 masks, which is what the bulk of the requests they've been getting are for.

"That particular mask is not something that we normally stock. HGC does stock the 3M P100 respirator masks but we are currently out of them. Some of the requests we've received are asking for mask quantities in the thousands. HGC wants to help. If anything changes and we are able to secure the masks, we will donate them immediately."

A spokesperson for Messer tells WVXU it too donated everything extra the company had available.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.