Joe Alonso, the head stonemason at the Washington National Cathedral, had tended to the building for 35 years. He knew its nooks and crannies.
So when news spread of a shortage of N95 masks needed to fight the coronavirus outbreak, Mr. Alonso remembered something nobody else did: More than 7,000 masks — purchased in 2005 or 2006 amid worries about an avian flu outbreak — were stashed away in an unfinished burial vault in the cathedral’s crypt.
“Over the last month, you start hearing, ‘N95 masks, N95 masks,’” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh yeah, all those N95 masks in the burial vault.’”
The cathedral donated 5,000 masks on Wednesday to two Washington hospitals to help doctors, nurses and others fight the coronavirus outbreak, part of a worldwide search that is turning up millions of desperately needed masks, sometimes in unusual places.
On Thursday, a health care union called the S.E.I.U.-U.H.W. said it had found a whopping 39 million masks from a private company based in Pennsylvania that distributes medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. The masks were being sold for $5 each to groups like Kaiser Permanente and the Greater New York Hospital Association, the union said, adding that it had no financial interest at stake.
For some multinational companies, the masks were part of a preparedness strategy for a variety of disasters.
Goldman Sachs has donated 600,000 N95 masks, “procured in the wake of previous epidemics,” with 400,000 going to hospitals in New York and New Jersey, Leslie Shribman, a spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs, said on Thursday. Abroad, Goldman Sachs is also donating 50,000 N95 masks to Britain’s National Health Service. Ms. Shribman declined to say where the masks were stored and how many masks in total the company had in its stockpile.
Nasdaq announced in a news release Wednesday that it had donated 12,000 face masks