As Hospitals Face Severe Shortages, the MBL Lends a Hand

A critical national shortage of surgical masks, gloves, and other protective gear for medical workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the Marine Biological Laboratory to scour its labs and storerooms for supplies to donate to the local health system.

“We are donating about 20,000 pairs of non-latex gloves and hundreds of other pieces of disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) to Cape Cod Healthcare,” says David Mark Welch, MBL Director of Research. MBL is also expecting a shipment of masks from a colleague overseas and will donate these when they arrive.

Global shortages of PPE for medical workers began to surface in mid-February, as the rise of coronavirus cases coincided with one of the worst flu seasons in years. Medical centers across the country are now pleading for supplies, many under the Twitter hashtag #GetMePPE.

The MBL may also help relieve the severe shortage of patient tests for COVID-19 infection. The standard test works by identifying the virus’s genetic material in the patient sample. One of the supplies needed for the test – viral transport kits – could be “made from scratch” in MBL labs, Mark Welch says. The MBL stands ready to make viral transport kits, should the hospital system request them.

A medical worker dons personal protective equipment. Credit: National Institutes of Health

A medical worker dons personal protective equipment. Credit: National Institutes of Health

A cell (green) heavily infected with COVID-19 virus particles (purple), isolated from a patient sample. The cell is undergoing programmed cell death. Colorized SEM image. Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH

A cell (green) heavily infected with COVID-19 virus particles (purple), isolated from a patient sample. The cell is undergoing programmed cell death. Colorized SEM image. Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH

All community members can drop off PPE and other critically needed supplies for Cape Cod Healthcare at five drop-off sites on Cape Cod. Items needed, listed by priority, are:

  • Isolation Gowns
  • Face Shields
  • Surgical Masks
  • Nitrile Gloves
  • 3M N95 Masks # 1860,1860S & 1870
  • Disinfectant Wipes
  • No Touch or Forehead Thermometers

“We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our local community and friends,” wrote Michael Lauf, president and CEO of Cape Cod Healthcare, in a message to the community. “It is a true indication of how challenging times can test the strength of a community – and clearly Cape Cod has banded together during this COVID-19 crisis.”

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The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery – exploring fundamental biology, understanding marine biodiversity and the environment, and informing the human condition through research and education. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.