Life-saving masks stolen from a nonprofit are recovered.
As the coronavirus continues to spread, suddenly hospital masks have become a hot commodity. Medical facilities have an ongoing shortage of masks (and other vital supplies) and have been asking those who are stockpiling at home to consider donating them. N95 respirator masks block “at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles and provide more protection than loose-fitting surgical masks,” according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The ReBuilding Center, a nonprofit which sells salvaged building materials, recently reported that two dozen cases of N95 respirator masks had been stolen from its facilities. Each case had 400 masks, and the losses totaled almost $2,500, according to the police report.
The following day, a center employee was scouring the internet for clues and discovered someone selling what she believed to be the stolen stock on Craigslist. Vladislav Drozdek, 42, was asking for $350 for one case or $600 for two, according to Beaverton Police Officer Matt Henderson. The Craigslister also offered boxes of twenty masks for $20.
Police conducted a search of Drozdek’s residence and discovered thousands stockpiled masks. “Six of the missing cases were recovered at that time,” according to police. After further investigation, however, authorities discovered seven more cases stored in a home nearby. The cases were returned to the ReBuilding Center, which immediately donated them to local hospitals. Drozdek was charged with first-degree theft by receiving.
“This was a good example of inter-agency teamwork and cooperation, along with some helpful detective work by the victim,” Portland Police Bureau Assistant Chief of Operations Mike Frome said in a statement. “This is even more significant during a time when these medical supplies are in such short supply.”
“The number of masks they donated is roughly double the number Oregon has received from the federal government,” the Center’s Executive Director, Jackie Kirouac-Fram, added.
The recently published U.S. Conference of Mayors survey, which was conducted from March 20 to March 24 of this year and included data a combined population of 42 million, concluded, “The shortages of essential items and equipment the cities are facing has reached crisis proportions.” The cities studied reported “a need for 28.5 million face masks, 24.4 million items of personal protective equipment such as gowns and gloves, 7.9 million test kits and 139,000 ventilators.”
Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor Greg Fischer (Democrat), vice president of the conference, said, “The biggest demand for his city is N95 respirator masks. The city purchased about 250,000 masks on the private market that are due to arrive” in the coming weeks, but he is pushing for a total of at least one million.
“Despite their best efforts, most cities do not have and cannot obtain adequate equipment and supplies needed to protect their residents,” the report read. “This is a life-threatening crisis that will continue unless the federal government does everything in its power to help us safeguard our first responders and health care workers – our first line of defense – and the millions of other public servants in our cities whose work today puts them at risk.”