National Cathedral Finds 5,000 Medical Masks That Were Stashed Away in Crypt for 10 Years

The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., just made one holy discovery.

As medical professionals nationwide face an extreme shortage of protective face masks to wear during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, officials at the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul uncovered 5,000 N95 respirator masks in its crypt and donated them to local hospitals.

“In these difficult and trying times, the Cathedral community is doing everything we can to help protect the most vulnerable among us from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, said in a statement on its website.

“We have made significant adjustments to our worship programs and made church services available online,” he added. “And now we’re prepared to take this additional, proactive step to ensure thousands have access to protection that otherwise may never have been available to them.”

According to the Cathedral, the masks were purchased more than a decade ago in an effort to provide clergy members “pastoral care without putting their own health at risk” during the bird flu outbreak.

When they were not used, they were put in storage. It was only during routine work in a storage area recently that the masks were discovered again.

A total of 22 boxes were donated on Wednesday, cathedral spokespeople said, with 13 boxes containing 3,000 masks to Georgetown University Hospital and nine boxes containing 2,000 masks to Children’s National.

Meanwhile, a small number of masks were retained by the cathedral to facilitate in pastoral care needs.

Prior to the donation, Cathedral officials contacted both the manufacturer as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm they were still safe to use.

There have been at least 68,534 cases of coronavirus in the United States as of Thursday morning, the New York Times reports. At least 990 patients with the virus have died.

Many celebrities have been helping the nationwide mask shortage. Kylie Jenner has donated $1 million to buy masks and faces shields for coronavirus first responders. Bethenny Frankel has also donated over 1 million masks to hospitals. Christian Siriano, Michael Costello and more designers are also helping produce face masks.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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