By Karen Angelo
Local hospitals and first responders rang the alarm for protective gear, and UMass Lowell responded.
The Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences and the Kennedy College of Sciences donated face shields, masks, gowns, eyewear, gloves and more to local health and first responders on the front lines of fighting the coronavirus.
The personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage is critical as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. surges. Without proper PPE, nurses, doctors and emergency responders are at risk of getting infected by the coronavirus and spreading it to others.
In mid-March, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences Dean Shortie McKinney reached out across campus to collect PPE stored in the university's labs.
“This very contagious and fast-moving pandemic shows no mercy for health care professionals who need to care for sick patients,” says McKinney. “We provided all the supplies we had, although I know that it’s not nearly enough, given the dire need.”
Donations started with the medical laboratory sciences and quickly poured in from the Solomont School of Nursing and the Physical Therapy and Kinesiology Department.
Early reports suggest transmission of the coronavirus most commonly happens during close proximity to an infected person, primarily from respiratory droplets produced by coughing or sneezing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks, gowns, gloves and eye protection to protect nurses and doctors from infection. However, supplies are so low that nurses and other health care workers have taken to social media to urge organizations to donate protective gear.
Dean Leslie Neal-Boylan of the School of Nursing says that staff and faculty reacted quickly, donating gowns, hand sanitizer, face masks and gloves to the Lowell Community Health Center.
“Nurses are the frontline health providers during normal times, frequently sacrificing their own health and safety to care for and protect their patients,” says Neal-Boylan. “All health care professionals need the appropriate gear, tools and staffing to combat this pandemic and we are happy to do our part.”
Prof. Susanna Remold, chair of the Biological Sciences Department, who previously served on a White House working group on pandemics, says that early action is critical.
“As soon as we heard about the need, our department collected all the PPE we had to provide to Lowell General Hospital,” she says. “We assumed that the situation would escalate over a short timeframe, and we were right.”
The Chemistry Department also stepped up, donating isopropyl alcohol, disposable gowns and about 40,000 gloves to Lowell General Hospital, Lawrence General Hospital and the Greater Lawrence Family Health Clinic.
The university’s Life Safety and Emergency Preparedness Office recently donated a range of protective equipment – Tyvek suits, face shields, masks, gloves and more – to first responders in the city of Lowell.
“I’ve been doing emergency response for a long time and find that crises tend to bring out the best in people and that’s what’s happening at UML,” says Richard Wood, director of the Life Safety and Emergency Preparedness Office. “We continue to work directly with the city of Lowell's Emergency Operations Center and state officials to provide personal protection equipment to those who need it.”
Due to the ongoing critical need for PPE, Wood urges that anyone in the university community who wants to contribute should contact the Emergency Operation Center at EOC@uml.edu so that donations can be coordinated.