PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — As I work from home this week, I stopped by my workbench in the garage and noticed something very valuable.
It is something a lot of people have been talking about: an N95 mask.
I reached out to one of the women charged with supply chain management at UPMC about supplies the currently have and how people have been reaching out to help.
Melissa Matta is the operation manager for Clinical Equipment at UPMC.
She explained that the company owns a 50,000-square-foot facility in the South Side that stores all the supplies they need for their hospitals and operation centers.
Before coronavirus became a household word, UPMC had a pandemic supply of personal protective equipment.
She says UPMC stocks many different kinds of protective masks.
She explains the N95 variety is “for a caregiver. And this is what the caregiver wears in the room. So, it is actually fit to the face. And we have to make sure that there’s no leaks around the edges.”
Men with beards and mustaches are required to shave if they are going to wear an N95 mask. If they don’t, they risk infection.
But that is not the only type of mask they need.
“We also use surgical masks. We have patients wear (them) whenever they are admitted to a hospital, and they are possibly infected,” Matta said.
Caregivers also need eye protection.
That included full-face shields or splash-resistant goggles. The advantage of those items is they can be disinfected and used again.
However, the hospital still goes through about 500 pairs of goggles every day.
Many companies in the area have been reaching out to UPMC to ask what they need during these trying times.
Many donations have been coming from companies involved in the building trades and from contractors.
Those companies often use N95 masks for dirty, dusty jobs.
Matta says, “These N95 masks come in all different shapes, so we have ones that look like a duckbill. We have all different sorts of masks, and they are also used in the construction world so we’re getting a lot of donations from those companies.”
People have volunteered to sew masks at home. UPMC says it is looking into buying sewn masks for non-patient care in non-hazardous areas.
They stress sewn masks are not the best option because they are not waterproof.
“We do have people making them,” Matts explains. “We’re not in that dire need yet, but we’re welcome for anything that the public is willing to help with.”
UPMC has information on its website about the type of items they need, or if you want to donate in person, you can go to 1920 Forbes Ave. in Pittsburgh from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Matta admits that she has been touched by the outpouring of support for the medical community in Pittsburgh.
“Every time I pick up a donation someone says, ‘Thank you, we’re thinking about you. Stay safe, we’re praying for you’ and that means as much as the donation itself really,” Matta said.