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Lending a hand: College of Science donates PPE to help battle public health pandemic

By Cari Longman

The College of Science is stepping up during this national pandemic, joining in Oregon State’s drive and providing much-needed supplies to the OSU community and healthcare workers here in Oregon. The impact so far? Thousands of donations, including sanitizer, gloves, masks and lab coats.

When the public health crisis first began, store shelves quickly emptied of hand sanitizer and surface sanitizing agents. The Chemistry Department met this need by producing and distributing more than 1,300 bottles of hand sanitizer and an additional 434 liters of surface sanitizing spray to the OSU and greater Corvallis community. This initial effort required roughly 350 gallons of alcohol, 48 gallons of Aloe Vera gel and 120 gallons of deionized water.

When OSU Provost Edward Feser sent a university-wide email asking OSU research units and facilities across the state for donations of personal protective equipment, or PPE, such as medical masks, safety glasses, gloves and gowns to support our local healthcare workers, as well as scientific swabs that can be used to test Coronavirus patients, the College of Science again rose to the challenge. Chemstores provided 10 cases of nitrile gloves, applicator cotton swabs, and of course, N95 and P95 masks.

The Biochemistry and Biophysics Department donated 30,000 gloves and 3,000 face masks to the university PPE drive. The Microbiology Department’s teaching program donated disinfectant and PPE they would have otherwise used in labs this term. Jerri Bartholomew, Microbiology Department head, also added that the “microbiology faculty dug into their own labs for gloves, masks and lab attire, understanding the urgent need for these supplies.” In total, microbiology donated 1,000 items of PPE, including 141 boxes of gloves, lab coats, gowns, scrubs, safety goggles and nearly 2,000 face masks.

The Integrative Biology Department hosts multiple large-enrollment introductory biology courses with lab components each term, including Principles of Biology and Human Anatomy and Physiology. Together, these four lab courses donated 583 boxes of gloves (around 58,300), 74 masks and 15 face shields. In addition, the department’s 13 research labs donated 160 boxes of gloves and 10 masks.

“We are happy to give all we can to the folks on the front lines of this crisis. They put themselves in danger to take care of us all,” said Devon Quick, senior instructor of biology. “They make incredible sacrifices to keep our community safe and deserve whatever they need to do their job with confidence. We are humbly grateful for their work and will do all we can to support them.”

Photo of OSU workers with boxes of collected PPE

Personal protective equipment collected by OSU for area healthcare workers.

These College of Science donations combined with a University-wide PPE drive resulting in donations of more than 12 pallets of personal protective equipment, including nearly 200,000 pairs of gloves and more than 8,000 face masks for Oregon healthcare workers confronting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bryan Lee, Benton County’s emergency manager, said that operations of all area health care facilities would have likely been severely hampered without the supplies provided by OSU’s Corvallis campus. “These resources are literally saving lives and keeping our health care system supported,” Lee said.

With in-person labs on hold, research and teaching are having to adapt. “You can’t grow carbon nanotubes (or cancer cell lines) at home, so on-campus research is now on hold,” said Heidi Schellman, head of the department of physics. “In the short run, we can work on writing things up, doing the literature searches we never have time for and analyzing data, but we’re eager to get back to our labs,” she added.

For those within the OSU community, the Chemistry Department is still offering hand sanitizer and sanitizing spray for sale. All transactions are processed using an index number affiliated with a department or lab account. For more information, contact Chemstores staff member Sierra Hansen.