Like frogs in a David Blaine illusion, respirator masks are coming from strange places. Amidst a national shortage of protective gear, we learned this week that companies are sitting on stockpiles of N95 respirators: first, Facebook produced 720,000 (leftover from Occupational Safety and Health Standards regulations after the California wildfires, it turns out), and today, Apple promised to come up with ten million more from its supply chain. It seems only natural that the Washington National Cathedral would find thousands of masks in its crypt. It did, and the Cathedral reports that it’s donating 5,000 of them to local hospitals. “Seek and ye shall find, apparently,” they tweeted this afternoon.
The Mystery of the Haunted Masks features one veteran stonemason, Joe Alonso, who, according to a representative for the Washington National Cathedral, recalled that in 2006 the Cathedral had purchased thousands of masks amidst the bird flu scare in order to protect clergy members. Alonso checked the crypt level storage, discovered the masks, and Cathedral officials confirmed with the manufacturer and CDC that they were still safe for use. (In February, the CDC produced guidelines on assessing stockpiled respirators that have outlived their shelf life in the event of a shortage.)
In a press release, the Cathedral stated they have delivered 2,000 N95 respirators to Children’s National and 3,000 to Georgetown University Hospital. They will be retaining a small number for their future pastoral services.
At this time, Washington, DC has 187 confirmed cases of covid-19. The national shortage of protective gear, exacerbated by citizens personally stockpiling masks, has sparked the hashtag “#GetMePPE,” or, “Get Me Personal Protective Equipment.”
Do you have hundreds if not thousands of masks in your basement? Or even just one? Donate it.