Construction firms have begun responding to Vice President Mike Pence's March 17 call for facemask donations to health care facilities

Suffolk Construction announced it is donating more than 1,250 N95 masks to Boston hospital network Mass General Brigham, “so they can be used to protect patients and medical personnel during this time of great need.”

[For ENR’s latest coverage of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, click here]

Daniel Antonellis, vice president of marketing and communications at Suffolk, said the firm also reached out to other construction companies in the Boston region to encourage them to donate their masks to local hospitals to assist in the effort.

Suffolk, which has ten offices nationwide, pulled the donation from its Boston operations, Antonellis said.

Exeter, Pa.-based heavy highway electrical contractor Kuharchik Construction also made a donation today of more than 1,000 3M N95 masks and about 100 3M 8511 respirators to health care facilities, nursing homes and other emergency workers.

“After the suggestion from vice president Mike Pence to check their inventories, we realized we had more than 1,000 of these in stock and we felt this was our chance to do something,” said CEO Robert Bresnahan. The majority of the masks and respirators will be distributed by Luzerne (Pa.) County.

Bresnahan said the donation represents nearly all of the firm's inventory, but it will keep some in reserve for workers who face risk of silica exposure.

“We’re going to do what we can and I encourage every other business leader to see how they can help,” he says.

Pence called on construction companies during a March 17 press conference to donate the masks to help hospitals and clinics that faces shortages and asked companies to “forgo additional orders of those industrial masks."

Following the press conference, the Associated General Contractors said in an email to its members that the organization had received no additional guidance from the administration about the mask request.

“It is our view that this should be considered as a voluntary gesture and not a mandate,” the email stated. “Of course, any firm with a surplus of masks should consider donating them to heath care providers. We will remain focused on keeping the construction industry operating and its workers safely working.”

On March 18, President Trump announced he would invoke the Defense Production Act of 1950 to help increase production of protective masks and other gear “just in case we need it.”

On March 17, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Defense Department would “immediately” make 1 million masks available from U.S. strategic reserves for use by health care and emergency workers. He said that DOD could make a total of up to 5 million N95 masks and 2,000 ventilators available for use, as needed.