An employee of the San Jose (CA) Police Department found a treasure trove of masks, which the agency then donated to local hospitals to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19 exposure.

One afternoon last week, San Jose PD property supervisor Anna Hawkes remembered that there might be a stashed-away cache of hospital-grade masks somewhere in one of the department's warehouses, a stockpile inspired by the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic. So she and other staff began hunting for the pallet, reports the Mercury News.

Tuesday, they found the plastic-wrapped pallet of scores of boxes labeled 3M. They re-discovered 50,000 masks, and because the department had already loaded up on personal protective equipment in anticipation of the current pandemic, they were all technically surplus.

Hawkes' discovery was in a sense like finding gold, given the widespread of shortages of masks and other medical supplies at area hospitals straining to keep up with the number of infected people who need intensive care. So she approached police commanders and suggested they could go to better use. Police contacted the CDC to ensure they were still viable, and got the go-ahead to give them away.

From there, it was a "no-brainer" on where the masks needed to go, police said. Five large hospitals in San Jose.