The crypt beneath the Washington National Cathedral is the final resting place for many notable people, including Admiral George Dewey, who served during the Spanish-American War, and author and political activist Helen Keller. For the last decade, it also housed 5,000 N95 respirator masks. These masks can filter at least 95 percent of very small particles (around 0.3 microns).
The masks were found by a stonemason working in the crypt. The church team checked with the manufacturer to ensure the masks were still good and received confirmation they were. The masks have now been donated to the Children's National Hospital and Georgetown University Hospital, a welcome gift given the current shortage.
Online some people were puzzled by the peculiar stash. Some were confused about why they were kept there, while others were simply surprised that the church had a crypt in the first place. However, there is nothing sinister or conspiratorial behind it. The masks were bought more than a decade ago during the avian flu outbreak to be distributed in case of an emergency. That time has come.
The Cathedral is not the only organization donating masks. Business Insider reports that Goldman Sachs has donated 100,000 N95 masks to both New York and New Jersey, with an additional 50,000 masks to the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. Facebook has donated 720,000 masks out of its emergency reserve and Apple has donated 9 million masks.
Many of these masks were previously bought in preparation for epidemics like the avian flu or the wildfires in California. In the US, cases of COVID-19 have soared to over 86,000 with 1,296 deaths so far.