Washington National Cathedral, 200m high and with nine chapels, is a big space to keep track of.

But longtime head mason Joe Alonso recently remembered something pretty key tucked away on the building's crypt level: surgical face masks.

A few weeks ago, a cathedral spokesman said today, Alonso was hearing reports about the coronavirus and the need for more medical supplies including masks, when he remembered a purchase the cathedral had made around 2006, during an earlier health scare. He went and checked and found boxes of more than 5000 masks in the building's sprawling crypt level.

After checking with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the manufacturer, said cathedral spokesman Tony Franquiz, it was confirmed that the masks were still safe to use. And today, Dean Randolph Marshall Hollerith and other cathedral staff wheeled the boxes out to donate.


Thirteen boxes holding 3,000 masks were delivered Wednesday to Georgetown University Hospital, and nine boxes holding 2,000 masks were delivered to Children's National, said Franquiz.

The masks apparently had been purchased for clergy, Franquiz said, so they could continue in the case of a health event to have protection and provide pastoral care. The cathedral will keep the remaining few.

"In these difficult and trying times, the cathedral community is doing everything we can to help protect the most vulnerable among us from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic," Hollerith said in a statement.

Some 200 people have been interred in the cathedral's crypt, including President Woodrow Wilson; Bishop Thomas Claggett, the first Episcopal bishop ordained on American soil; Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan; Navy Admiral George Dewey and Matthew Shepherd.