Before March, few people outside the health and safety fields had heard of PPE or realized how important ­– and difficult to obtain – it would become as COVID-19 spread across the country.

Clemson University’s COVID-19 Emergency Operations team (EOC) knew obtaining PPE – personal protective equipment – would be critical to protect the University’s health care workers, first-responders and others who are at risk of exposure while doing their jobs.

With hospitals, states and the federal government competing for the same supplies, the University looked inward.

The call went out to Clemson researchers and lab managers across the state with access to PPE to share what they could.

“We didn’t know how much was out there,” said Tracy Arwood, chief ethics and compliance officer.

Researchers from campus labs and those in Greenville and Anderson County, the Research and Education Centers, the Clemson Genetics Center in Greenwood and others sent N95 masks, face shields, surgical masks, Tyvek suits and gloves, Arwood said.

One lab even shared a difficult-to-find infrared thermometer that lets nurses at the Joseph F. Sullivan Center check patients’ temperatures from a safe distance.

The safety supplies are being used by essential teams at the Sullivan Center and Redfern; police, firefighters and EMS crews; custodians; and even CCIT technicians who may have to work closely with essential contractors.

“We are focused on taking care of our personnel who are taking care of us,” Arwood said.

“People were extremely generous,” she said.