Local Business Leaders Secure More Than 11 Million Pieces of PPE for COVID-19 Frontline Workers, Underserved Communities

Posted By on June 23, 2020
Marco Lopez and Sharon Harper watch as National Guard members load face masks for delivery to first responders.

Arizona’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen sharply in recent weeks, but a new philanthropic initiative seeks to protect the frontline workers fighting the disease has secured more than 11 million pieces of critical supplies.

Delivered this week via the Arizona National Guard, the assortment of masks, gowns, goggles, gloves and face shields from the new Arizona PPE Initiative underwent distribution among health care workers, first responders and other workers on the frontlines of the ongoing health crisis.

Tribal and senior communities, law enforcement agencies, universities and nonprofits organizations were also among those receiving much-needed PPE supplies intended to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and protect citizens statewide. 

Two local business leaders spearheaded the philanthropic effort to create the new supply chain for Arizona.

“Many of my family members, including my husband and daughter, have medical backgrounds. Consequently, it was heartbreaking for me to hear stories of how they did not have adequate equipment to deal with the COVID-19 crisis,” said Sharon Harper, the chairman and CEO of Peoria’s Plaza Companies, who co-founded the initiative alongside Marco Lopez, the former Mayor of Nogales, Arizona, the former Chief of Staff for United States Customs and Border Protection and the Chief Executive of Intermestic Partners.

“Additionally, with my company owning and operating commercial and medical office facilities and senior living communities, the shortage of protective gear and the associated risk was alarming. I am very pleased we were able to make the connections needed to start the initiative and get this badly needed medical equipment to the front lines.”

Why has Arizona has struggled to maintain a supply of PPE? For starters, manufacturers are facing strict regulations in terms of how they must sell the equipment, and to whom. They are also dealing with rapid changes in terms of inspections and approval, while the industry as a whole is suffering from intense competition and unrealistic production timelines. Because of the global shortage of PPE, some manufacturers are speeding up production while quality control suffers, and distribution of the equipment, once produced, has also faced hurdles due to regular disruptions of the supply chain.

“This is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and it was critical that we rise to the challenge,” said Lopez. “This PPE will benefit healthcare workers in both rural and urban areas and in some of the hardest-hit communities in Arizona. I am hopeful this will become a model for how to respond to such a crisis and will help ensure we have the equipment our first responders need to overcome it.”

Upon completion of all deliveries, more than 100 groups across Arizona will gain access to critical, potentially life-saving PPE.


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