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A shortage of personal protective equipment weakens health workers’ ability to do their jobs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

A partial solution: the gloves you have stored in your garage. 

Tuesday, a coalition of private and nonprofit organizations announced an initiative to let people donate hand-sewn masks and stored-away medical equipment directly to hospitals more efficiently. 

If you have a handful of N95 masks you can contribute or if your company has leftover gloves sitting in a supply closet, you can mail them in. And you don’t have to pay a cent. 

Companies such as UPS, Microsoft, the American Hospital Association and Kaiser Permanente are among those that built out the infrastructure for the project called “Protecting People Everywhere,” using the same initials for the much needed personal protective equipment, or PPE. 

The coalition primarily asks for gloves, medical-grade respirators, goggles and gowns. There is no minimum to donate. 

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How it works

At the center of the initiative is an app and website called HealthEquip. 

The service connects donors with hospitals that are most in need based on the amount of staff, the number of COVID-19 patients and other factors. Anyone can donate supplies, though medical-grade tools are preferred, and the donations will be added to a central roster. 

Hospitals that sign up can request the equipment they need, and once the system pairs a donor with a recipient, the hospital will cover the shipping costs, and UPS will transport the goods. 

“We want to make sure that everybody who wants to contribute supplies has an easy and safe way to do that and a mechanism that’s fairly equitable for getting those supplies to the hospitals,” said Bechara Choucair, senior vice president and chief health officer for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. 

Several big companies such as Apple and Tesla have stepped in to bolster the nation’s supply of medical equipment by tapping production chains and repurposing factories. Apple pumps out a million protective shields per week, and Tesla has given away hundreds of ventilators. 

It’s not enough.

Health care workers have died after contracting the respiratory virus. Protective equipment shortages affect medical clinics of all sizes. 

Last week, the government released documents revealing that its personal protective equipment stockpile is 90% depleted. Those supplies are shipped to states and local governments for hospital workers. 

Small donations from everyday people and small businesses can help fill in the gaps, Choucair said. 

Hospitals will decide how to test, evaluate and deploy the donations once they arrive. The HealthEquip app is available via the App Store and Google Play Store.

Follow Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown. 

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