At a time when social distancing is the new norm and many of us are staying inside, healthcare workers and emergency responders are working to keep their communities safe. According to a March 19 New York Times article, physicians are saying that there is a shortage of protective gear including masks, eye gear and gowns needed to keep them safe while treating the increasing number of patients in hospitals as a result of the coronavirus.

A March 27 BrandeisNow article details how the Brandeis community has been reacting to calls for help like this. Healthcare workers that knew Brandeis community members asked if the University had supplies to donate to local hospitals and clinics. The Waltham Fire Department also reached out to the University asking for masks for when they treat community members who are or may be infected with the virus. 

The Brandeis community stepped up to the plate. In a series of phone interviews and emails, the Justice spoke with members of the Brandeis community whose labs and departments contributed to the total of 107 gowns and pairs of booties, 600 surgical masks, 158 N95 respirators, 345 boxes of gloves and 1,000 nasopharyngeal swabs donated to the fire department and healthcare facilities in the Waltham area.

Department of Theater Arts

In a collaborative effort, Barbara Sherman ’54 and Malcolm L. Sherman Associate Professor and Chair Dmitry Troyanovsky (THA), Director of Production JB Barricklo and Technical Director Chris Tedford found and donated supplies from the Department of Theater Arts. “The department donated five boxes of nitrile gloves and five boxes of comfort masks,” according to Tedford. Per Barricklo, the masks and gloves were both sourced from the department’s scenery shop and from the department’s first aid supplies.

“The medical professionals, who are on the front lines of this crisis, are in desperate need of protective equipment,” Troyanovsky said. He said that they are now asking for donations, and “many theaters have scenic shops that use masks. We saw it as our duty to give them away.” Troyanovsky expressed that the purpose of theater is to make lives better for others and by making these donations, the department has the ability to save lives.

Tedford added that the supplies from their department were specifically donated to the University of Massachusetts Hospital-Memorial Campus, located in Worcester, MA. Tedford has friends who work as doctors and nurses there, and he reached out to UMass’s donations department to ask what supplies they need. After he found out what they needed, he dropped off the supplies on March 23. 

Department of Fine Arts

The Department of Fine Arts donated 12 boxes of 200 gloves each, according to Studio Art Technician Rebecca Strauss. As the individual who orders supplies for the department, she ordered the gloves that later became part of the donated supplies. Associate Professor of Sculpture Tory Fair said that she read an email from Provost Lisa Lynch on March 22 asking if they had any supplies “that we could share with our health center that is serving as a dropoff point to serve metro west and Worcester hospitals.”

Fair spoke to Strauss and saw what supplies the department could donate. While they had no more dust masks, and none were in stock, they did find the 12 boxes of gloves. Fair contacted Manager of Environmental Health & Safety Andrew Finn, who brought the boxes to the Health Center. 

“I was thrilled that we were able to contribute, even in a small way. I wish we had had more to give, especially masks, but being able to do anything feels so important. In a time like this, even the smallest mitzvot (good deeds/charity) can make a world of difference,” Strauss said in her email to the Justice. “I can't directly save a life right now, but I can help support those who can.”

Dr. Ricardo Padua’s coordination of science lab donations

Postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Dorothee Kern’s (BCHM) lab Ricardo Padua organized a collection of supplies and donations from multiple labs, including the lab he works in. 

“The trigger was a post on Instagram where a tattoo artist donated his gloves and masks to the Newton-Wellesley Hospital. He was not using them due to the lockdown and heard the hospital suffered from a shortage of PPEs. I wondered if we could do the same with all the research lab supplies resting on our shelves,” Padua told the Justice. Padua reached out to a friend of his who is a nurse at Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA to see what supplies were needed. 

It was then that Padua coordinated with Kern to see if other labs had equipment that they too could donate. Between all of the participating labs, the total collections to Emerson Hospital included 29 boxes of 100 small gloves, 18 boxes of 100 medium gloves, 41 boxes of 100 large gloves, 10 boxes of 200 large gloves, 45 boxes of 100 extra-large gloves and 105 boxes of 100 assorted sized gloves. In total, the efforts of Padua and the Kern lab in collaboration with other Brandeis laboratories led to the donation of 250 boxes of gloves, 150 surgical masks and seven pairs of safety goggles.

One of the other labs that contributed to the donations that Padua coordinated is the Krauss lab. As an associate professor of chemistry, Prof. Isaac Krauss (CHEM) runs a chemistry lab in the Edison-Lecks Science Building. Through Padua’s collection, Krauss donated 70 boxes of the total 345 boxes collected, making his contribution 7,000 gloves. 

“Even though Brandeis researchers are really passionate about doing their research, I think everybody pretty much understands that when it comes to a situation like this that our gloves are of best use to people who really need them in the crisis,” Krauss told the Justice. 

Krauss said that upon receiving an email from Kern that a member of her lab was coordinating a donation to the hospitals in the area, he took advantage of the opportunity to do something that he was already thinking of doing. His lab had just restocked this equipment before it closed down as a result of the coronavirus. While the gloves will not be needed in the lab for now, they will be put to good use. 

“It feels good to help and that many people are willing to join efforts, but [it] also makes one wonder how many more supplies we could gather if this was an initiative organized by the government,” Padua added. 

“The delivery was made in the science parking lot with full social distancing rules,” Kern said about the collection. Kern referred to Padua and the nurse he worked with to make this possible as “Just two young and caring people helping to fight this virus and helping patients in need fast.” Kern said that her team is now working from home to further advance “fundamental science to equip us better for future attacks on health and life of human beings.” 

Emergency Management, the Department of Environmental Health and Safety and the Department of Facilities Services

According to the BrandeisNow article, Director of Emergency Management Joshua Manfredo, along with the Department of Environmental Health and Safety and the Department of Facilities Services, helped to coordinate the donation of N95 respirators to the Waltham Fire Department. 

“Many of our departments within Campus Operations maintain relationships with various entities, including the City of Waltham,” Manfredo told the Justice. “The Waltham Fire Department made a request to our Manager of Environmental Health & Safety who works closely with them for Fire and Life Safety issues at Brandeis.” When Manfredo and Facilities received the request, they looked at what they had in stock that could be donated to the Fire Department. In this case, there were extra N95 masks that could meet the needs of the department.

“For this particular situation, it was a request from the Waltham Fire Department for assistance that prompted the action. Our motivating factor to proceed was to help the first responders protect themselves from contracting COVID-19,” Manfredo said. The Waltham Fire Department picked the masks up from the Facilities Services department. 

The Rose Art Museum 

The Rose Art Museum donated nine boxes of 100 gloves and five Tyvek personal protective suits, according to Associate Director of Administration and Operations of the Rose Anthony DiPietro. 

“We had the supplies on hand as part of our collection care efforts as well as a past exhibition. Sometimes chemicals used in preparation, conservation, or art-making require protective gear. The suits we had on hand were left over from the Tony Lewis mural Plunder, created in 2017 with the artist and a crew that included Brandeis students. The installation used thousands of graphite-dipped rubber bands, which created charcoal dust; hence the need for personal protective gear,” Dipietro explained. 

On March 12, the day that many museums announced that they would be temporarily closed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the Rose announced that they would also be closed starting March 15 until at least April 30, DiPietro said. He added that the following week, the Rose’s full-time staff began working remotely. “When the dust began to settle that week, we heard about the supply shortages and wanted to do something to help. After hearing that Brandeis was able to get donations to area hospitals, we reached out to find out where to donate our extra supplies.”

They dropped off the supplies at the Brandeis Health Center, DiPeitro said. Administrative Director and Nurse Practitioner Diana Denning told them that they were working with Boston Medical Center to place the supplies in areas that were working with COVID-19 patients. The supplies were brought to the Health Center by Senior Preparator Roy Dawes. “Roy Dawes, our senior preparator, who’s in his 17th year of service at Brandeis, went to the museum to check on the Rose art collection in storage and take steps to protect the artwork that remains on display in the galleries. He was able to check our inventory and take our extra supplies to the Health Center,” DiPietro said.

“We know that combating the spread of COVID-19 is taking the effort of the entire community, and there are things that each of us can do individually. We are extremely proud to be doing our part as best we can,” DiPietro concluded. “Everyone on our team was supporting the effort and many people played a small part in making the donation happen.”

According to the BrandeisNow article, any member of the Brandeis community who has items that can be donated should contact Denning.

—Editor’s Note: Editor Hannah Kressel works at the Rose as a curatorial intern and did not edit or contribute to this article.