The COVID-19 shutdown has brought about its fair-share of negative news. However, a group of students at The University of New Mexico decided they were not going to sit around, and let the negativity pile up. They were going to do something about it—which is why when these students heard there was a shortage on personal protective equipment for health-care workers, they were going to work to combat that.

UNM students Rosstin Ahmadian, Daniela Armendariz, Henning De May, Caroline Ice, Heather Metcalf, Sally Midani, Danielle Rivera, Claire Sava and Carly Wujek were the group of Lobos who decided it was time to step up to help the state of New Mexico. The group created the organization Protect NM in an effort to gather personal protective equipment (PPE) for health-care workers on the front-lines during COVID-19 across the State of New Mexico.

Protect NM explains that a shortage in PPE is inevitable. Due to market barriers for PPE acquisition, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for safe usage, the demand of PPE is sky-rocketing, especially in rural areas in New Mexico.

“With many New Mexico natives in our core group of students, we quickly understood the implications of a pandemic like COVID-19 in a widespread, resource-scarce state like ours,” explains UNM Medical Student Sally Midani. “While the distance could absolutely alleviate the strain of social distancing protocols, it could on the other hand have serious consequences in the face of protective personal equipment shortages.

"Reflecting on the crises of neighboring distant states alike, we assembled a team to set a net across Albuquerque and beyond to emphasize the message that we can overcome challenges best by working hand-in-hand—or glove-in-glove.”

Protect NM hosted their first donation drive on April 11, and has been continuing their efforts ever since. The donation drives are simple and follow all social distancing procedures. Donators simply drive up the drop-off location, and a Protect NM volunteer will safely collect all the donated PPE.

From there, Protect NM works with the State of New Mexico COVID-19 Emergency Collaborative to evaluate what locations are in critical need of supplies. The NM COVID-19 Emergency Collaborative is made up of several federal, state and local New Mexico entities intended to connect New Mexico providers with solutions and capabilities from across the state. Based off the needs expressed to the State, Protect NM will distribute needs to those communities.

“We’ve made a trip out to Gallup and have another one planned later this week,” explains Midani. “We use an assessment through NM COVID-19 Emergency Collaborative and then we deliver supplies based on critical need as health care workers fill out the survey.”

Since then, Protect NM has teamed up with a series of well-known organizations in Albuquerque like The Curse—New Mexico United’s independent supporters’ group.  Other collaborators include Starr Brothers Brewing Company, Sagebrush Community Church, Bosque School and Manzano Day School.

While some may think finding PPE equipment is difficult, some may not realize they can be right in their house. The following can be donated:

  • Face Masks
    • N95
    • Ear Loop
    • Surpical
    • Homemade
  • Gloves
    • Nitrile
    • Sterile
    • Surgical
  • Eye Protection
    • Face Shields
    • Goggles
  • Gowns
    • Isolation
    • Non-Descript
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Thermometers
  • Infection Control Kits
  • Disinfectant Wipes

“A lot of these supplies are available in your home and you don’t even realize it,” explains a UNM student volunteer Emma Hotz. “Especially if you do a lot of home improvement, those products can overlap.”

Interested individuals or businesses are able to donate without even leaving the car at one of Protect NM’s drop-off events hosted every Friday and Saturday. For information on drop-off locations, visit Protect NM. Individuals or businesses interested in donating outside of these are able to set up an appointment. No appointments are necessary for drop-off events hosted on Fridays and Saturdays.