National Cathedral Discovers 5,000 N95 Masks Stashed in Crypt

Joe Alonso, the head stonemason at Washington’s National Cathedral, discovered 5,000 N95 masks stashed away in the church’s crypt, which have now been donated to local hospitals to help with the coronavirus crisis.
Danielle E Thomas/Washington National Cathedral

Joe Alonso, the head stonemason at Washington’s National Cathedral, who knows the church better than anyone, discovered 5,000 N95 masks stashed away in the church’s crypt.

Alonso made this discovery after reading news about the coronavirus pandemic and remembering that there was something stashed away in the church’s crypt level that could help fight the virus: 5,000 N95 masks purchased more than ten years ago after a health scare.

With the number of coronavirus patients increasing, healthcare workers are facing dire shortages of masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised health professionals to reuse masks or use scarves or bandannas in place of masks to control the shortages.

“In these difficult and trying times, the Cathedral community is doing everything we can to help protect the most vulnerable among us from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral said in a statement.

After contacting the CDC to make sure the masks were safe to donate, Hollerith and a group of others took time on Wednesday to load boxes of N95 masks into a van to deliver them to local hospitals.

The cathedral said 2,000 of those masks were donated to Children’s National Hospital, and 3,000 were donated to Georgetown University Hospital.

“The Cathedral will retain a small number of masks to facilitate in pastoral care needs,” it said in its news release.

The cathedral purchased the masks in 2006 when concerns about the bird flu or H5N1 were on the world’s mind. But after the flu went away without causing much damage in the U.S., the masks went into storage.

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