Harbor Freight Tools donates PPE equipment as hospitals fight COVID-19

Suzan Platzer and her daughter, Emily Platzer, came up with designs for masks as they worked with a group who developed face masks for Montrose Memorial Hospital. Harbor Freight Tools and JOANN are a few companies who are offering their assistance to local communities.

Harbor Freight Tools, a tool retailer, announced its decision to donate N95 masks, face shields, and nitrile gloves to emergency rooms in need. Hospital workers have been on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19, and with many items on backorder, any donation to aid the fight is essential as patients recover and caregivers stay protected.

Craig Hoffman, Director of Corporate Communication for Harbor Freight Tools, spoke about the company’s decision.

“It was kind of an easy decision,” Hoffman said. “We realized that this is equipment that we sell every day in our stores. We had it not only on our shelves but in our distribution center. So we decided to pull everything off our shelves and donate everything we had in our inventory.

“Hospitals with 24 hour ERs, people on the frontlines treating COVID-19 would have the proper protective equipment.”

Hoffman said it didn’t take long for the company to make the decision and noted the immediate response from community hospitals.

“Just a few days ago, on Sunday,” Hoffman said. “We’ve gotten over 15,000 applications [since the announcement].”

Even though the company may face a shortage in stores, that wasn’t of concern considering what the nation is facing.

“Considering the circumstances, that’s not in our consideration. We have to protect the community,” Hoffman added.

Montrose Memorial Hospital Chief Marketing Officer Leann Tobin confirmed the hospital has filled out the appropriate paperwork through the company’s site to receive masks and other protective equipment. For now, MMH waits since they are on a list and Harbor Freight distributes as needed.

As MMH awaits the potential arrival of new equipment from the retailer, they’ve received immediate assistance from the community as many have joined together to sew masks and deliver other types of assistance.

“We are very blessed,” Tobin said. “We’ve had manufacturers in our community reach out and say they're willing to change and sew what we need so we're working with them.”

Tobin said restaurants in the community are offering hospital employees discounts for their courageous and tremendous work.

“We are very, very blessed by what everybody is doing,” Tobin said. “The outpouring of support has been very, very nice.”

Harbor Freight isn’t the only company that’s lending a helping hand.

JOANN’s offered discounts to a group that worked on masks this past week. With so many supplies needed, the team at Joanne’s coordinated with Lori Sharp, who was one of a few who picked up the supplies and brought them to the group.

“The store manager at JOANN has been fantastic,” Sharp said. “The team at JOANN has been wonderful.”

Montrose County Commissioner Sue Hansen organized a mask-sewing effort and is working with a group of volunteers and other care providers in town to develop the masks. Since there are several different types of masks, Hansen is coordinating with a few physicians for guidelines on how the masks should be constructed.

Although the process is streamlined, it goes through certain steps to make sure the masks are safe for workers and patients to use.

The hospital receives the masks from the county, which checks how they are made and where they will go. The masks they receive don’t need to be sterilized since the hospital uses both sterilized and unsterilized masks.

MMH’s infection preventionist will then determine which mask will be needed as this varies for the procedure and the patient.

The masks are cleaned appropriately and in between uses.

As of now, the hospital has plenty of masks, Tobin said. Some are in more short supply than others, but Tobin indicated the hospital is working through any shortages appropriately.

Mike Willis, director of the State Emergency Operations Center in Colorado, spoke on the topic of masks and how they are distributed from the national emergency stockpile.

“The formula, developed before the outbreak, is based on population, proportion of the population 65 or older and the number of nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living facilities,” Willis said during a Tuesday media call.

Former legislator Laura Bradford made it a point to deliver machines to Montrose to help those creating face masks.

Tobin indicated that anyone who is sewing masks should drop them off in the blue tub at the reception area of the county public health building, 1845 S. Townsend Ave. From there, county officials can make sure they are safe to use and deliver them to the hospital shortly after.

“We want to keep everybody healthy and safe,” Tobin said, “so we're encouraging safety and encouraging people to not drop them off at the hospital.”

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