Notre Dame donates personal protective equipment for county coronavirus response


Covid 19 744 Bj Feature

The University of Notre Dame is donating personal protective equipment from labs across the University in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to a shortage of such equipment among local doctors, nurses and first responders on the front lines of the outbreak.

With support from Notre Dame Research (NDR), labs across campus are donating gloves, masks, face shields, goggles, isolation gowns and other personal protective equipment for delivery to St. Joseph County Unified Command (SJCUC), which is responsible for coordinating the coronavirus response in St. Joseph County.

Jessica Brookshire, senior program director in the Office of Clinical Partnerships at NDR, and Deanna Ponsler, director of transportation, warehouse and delivery services at Notre Dame, are coordinating the donations with support from the Department of Sustainability and Logistics, part of the Division of Campus Safety and University Operations.

Collecting personal protective equipment donations is just one way that the Notre Dame community can continue to be a force for good during these challenging times, especially as the health services industry hits a critical level of need," said Brookshire. “The University is grateful to be working with St. Joseph County Unified Command to support health care facilities throughout the county.”

The donated equipment, representing excess and available items from labs that are now in temporary hibernation because of the coronavirus pandemic, includes thousands of gloves, face masks, face shields, isolation gowns, hoods/paper head covers and bodysuits.

In addition, Liang Cai, assistant professor of history and faculty fellow with the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies at Notre Dame, is organizing the donation of personal protective equipment from China with help from Notre Dame alumni and the parents of Notre Dame students in that country.

Cai also mobilized faculty and staff to donate directly to Memorial Hospital, resulting in about 1,300 items, including 800 pairs of gloves and 426 face masks, for the hospital.

Personal protective equipment has been in short supply since the outset of the coronavirus outbreak in January. Manufacturers have ramped up production of masks and other critical supplies, but hospitals continue to report shortages. Many have resorted to rationing, placing front-line medical workers at risk of contracting the virus themselves and spreading it to others.

In the absence of a timely market or government solution to the problem, doctors, nurses and other front-line medical workers have resorted to buying equipment online or from local stores, or using items such as masks for longer than recommended for safe use.

At the same time, businesses, organizations and individuals have started donating equipment, including existing stockpiles of supplies, store-bought items and even hand-sewn masks, to hospitals and first responders — an unprecedented mobilization of grassroots, community support for healthcare workers.

Locally, SJCUC has been distributing masks, gloves and other equipment to hospitals, first responders and long-term care facilities as fast as it can get it from federal, state and local sources, including the National Strategic Stockpile, the nation’s largest supply of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in catastrophic public health emergencies.

“It’s all PPE (personal protective equipment). Everybody needs PPE,” said Paul Burrows, local public health coordinator in the Epidemiology and Emergency Preparedness Division of the St. Joseph County Health Department. “They need masks, gloves, gowns, face shields, sanitizer, everything. Everything is needed by everybody.”

Unfortunately, Burrows said, “We’ve depleted all of our emergency preparedness resources. We had resources leftover from H1N1 and Ebola, and we’ve depleted everything. If it wasn’t for (donations) we wouldn’t have anything to give to anybody right now.”

Burrows said he expects the situation to improve as production of masks and other equipment ramps up domestically.

“We’ll eventually get on top of it,” he said, “but it’s going to be awhile.”

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Contact: Erin Blasko, assistant director of media relations, 574-631-4127,

Originally published by Erin Blasko at on March 27, 2020.