Who’s Helping Fill Medical Supply Shortages during COVID-19?

As COVID-19 cases begin to flood hospitals, a severe shortage of personal protective equipment—including masks, gloves, and gowns—poses an enormous threat to the health of frontline health care workers and the patients they care for.

We have a shortage of personal protective equipment and other lifesaving gear because we weren’t prepared for this: In the past few years, funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health agencies has been slashed. In 2018, the White House office dedicated to disease outbreaks, the Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, was disbanded and never replaced. And when the pandemic became an imminent threat to the United States, those who could have made the biggest difference failed to act. Now the best we can do is try to make up for years of underpreparedness.

It’s true that the biggest moves have to be made at a policy level. But there are smaller contributions the rest of us can make: For most of us, the most effective way to help is to donate to nonprofits that are helping secure resources and allocate them where they’re most needed. To help provide personal protective equipment to those on the front lines, consider donating to the COVID-19 relief efforts headed by the United Nations Foundation, Doctors Without Borders, the International Medical Corps, Direct Relief, and the Charities Aid Foundation of America.

Companies and other, larger organizations can play a more direct role in supporting doctors, nurses, and other medical staff, whether that’s by adjusting their production lines to make protective masks or just by putting a hot cup of coffee in a nurse’s hands.

Mechanical companies making ventilators: Dyson, Tesla, General Motors, and Airbus, among other major mechanical hardware companies, are teaming up with medical equipment manufacturers to scale up production of ventilators, respirator masks, and other needed supplies.

Fashion companies manufacturing masks and gowns: Many designers, like Christian Siriano, Alice + Olivia, Prada, Reformation, and Eileen Fisher, are turning their attention to helping with the COVID-19 crisis however they can. And some small, independent studios, like that of Boston-based designer Erin Robertson, are amplifying their impact by teaching their audiences to make medical masks at home.

While homemade masks do not meet the standards for working with COVID-19 patients, they can be used in other parts of the hospital, like surgical wards, to free up CDC-compliant masks for coronavirus treatment. If you can sew, you can help. Visit We Need Masks and Mask Match for sewing guidelines and donation information. If you have other personal protective equipment, like N95 respirators, gloves, protective eyewear, or disinfectants, check out #GetUsPPE to find out where you can donate those items.

Direct support and comfort for frontline health care workers: Outside of producing protective gear, many brands are providing goods to hospitals and individual health care workers free of charge. FIGS is making personal protective equipment, sending care packages to medical professionals, and donating 30,000 pairs of scrubs over the next two months to hospitals that need them. Sweetgreen is providing nutritious meals to hospital workers free of charge. Dripkit has set up a portal to send pour-over coffee kits directly to nurses and doctors dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Allbirds has delivered half a million dollars’ worth of sneakers already, and it’s established a give-one-get-one (or, if you prefer, just give-one) campaign to supply even more shoes to health care workers.