Albuquerque-based sustainable roofing company RoofCARE has donated 75 Tyvek protective suits and 250 N95 face masks to the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, dropping them off at the New Mexico State Police Department in Santa Fe just after noon on Thursday.
The much needed safety gear will be distributed to first responders who are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.
"We're really appreciative of you donating supplies at a time like this," Major Luis Hernandez with State Police Special Operations Bureau told representatives of the company as they handed over the supplies to officers. "We've been looking to acquire more, but they're hard to come by and this stuff goes by really quick."
Kevin Wilson, RoofCARE's health and safety officer, tells SFR he first thought of donating supplies on Monday after he read that the state was running short on critical gear to protect nurses, police officers and firefighters who must come into contact with infected or potentially infected members of the public. He says he knew that RoofCARE, which has several New Mexico branches—including one in Santa Fe—had a supply of the needed items stored at the company warehouse and immediately arranged the donation.
Wilson says he is urging other private businesses and member of the public to donate supplies, telling SFR that "all construction companies will have this kind of personal protective equipment."
Hernandez tells SFR as far as he is aware, this is the only donation of this sort the department has received from the private sector since the crisis began.
"They're the first company to step up to the challenge, they set the bar for everyone else," Hernandez said.
In a press conference Wednesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she is working to secure the protective equipment New Mexico needs to fight the virus, and reprimanded the federal government for not acting more swiftly to distribute supplies. The state's congressional delegation on Tuesday wrote a letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services requesting the state's full allotment of protective gear, of which it has only received 25%.
During a virtual town hall hosted by US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-NM, on Monday, Julie Fisher, an associate research professor at Georgetown University's Department of Microbiology and Immunology, answered medical questions posed by constituents—including one about whether or not individuals should wear masks to protect themselves when they go out in public.
Fisher told listeners that regular surgical masks are actually ineffective at protecting healthy people because they do not seal out air and germs. However, they are very effective at stopping sick people from spreading the virus further.
Other kinds of face masks, such as the personal protective equipment worn by medical staff treating coronavirus patients, do work to protect the wearer from infection but are in short supply across the nation.
Fisher urged listeners not to purchase surgical masks unless they or someone they know are already sick, and to leave more protective masks on the shelves for nurses and other first responders.
"There is a real shortage," she said.