Local COVID-19 news

OMAHA — Union Pacific donated 6,600 N95 masks to Nebraska Medical Center last week, according to a press release.

The donation was in response to a request made March 18 by Dr. James Linder, chief executive officer of Nebraska Medicine, in which he stated the hospital was having difficulties fulfilling the necessary supplies to properly serve the community.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, N95 respirators are respiratory protective devices that block at least 95% of very small airborne particles. These specific types of masks are standard personal protective equipment for health care professionals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“When a key organization to curing this virus asks for help, you figure out a way to help,” said Clark Ponthier, senior vice president-supply chain. “Even the United States’ president put out a call to action to support our local hospitals. This is us doing our part.”

Linder’s request was for N95 masks, hand sanitizer and isopropyl alcohol.

“Of all places, a hospital couldn’t get enough hand sanitizer and were looking into making their own,” Ponthier said.

According to the press release, Ponthier contacted Pete Newton, assistant vice president-strategic sourcing, supply chain, to look into U.P.’s supply of N95 masks.

“We had recently purchased more than enough of these specialty masks for our employees,” Newton said. “The masks are strategically placed throughout the system. After looking through our inventory, we were able to donate 6,600 N95 masks to Nebraska Medicine employees and potential patients.”

The extra masks were shipped from nine network warehouses to a Council Bluffs, Iowa, warehouse, and were delivered to the hospital Saturday.

“This support from U.P. is incredibly valuable to our clinical staff working directly with patients and in labs,” Linder said. “Protecting our health care workers is a national priority right now, and U.P. has shown great leadership and caring at a time when it’s badly needed. On behalf of every patient, physician and employee at Nebraska Medicine, thank you!”

It was a way that U.P. was able to rally behind one of the nation’s top hospitals, according to a press release.

“It speaks volumes to how quickly our employees reacted to this ask,” Newton said. “I’m honored to be part of a team helping our community in this way.”

And while U.P. was unable to donate the hand sanitizer and isopropyl alcohol, it was able to point Nebraska Medicine in the right direction.

“These were items we could not donate,” Pontier said. “But we were able to get Nebraska Medicine’s Supply Department in contact with our hand sanitizer supplier. The supplier had plenty of product available and is helping the hospital receive 55-gallon drums delivered in the next few days, eliminating their need to make their own hand sanitizer.”

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