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caption: UW Medicine nurses test a patient for coronavirus on March 17, 2020, at the University of Washington Northwest Outpatient Medical Center drive-through testing area in North Seattle.
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UW Medicine nurses test a patient for coronavirus on March 17, 2020, at the University of Washington Northwest Outpatient Medical Center drive-through testing area in North Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Federal rules "expressly prohibit" labs from donating needed medical supplies

University of Washington Medicine is preparing for a potential wave of COVID-19 patients to hit emergency rooms in the coming weeks. For that reason, they’ve asked people and labs to donate supplies.

However, donating supplies purchased using federal grants isn't alloweed.

Shelly Carpenter works in an oceanography at the University of Washington and was helping organize donations to UW Medicine.

She said a lot of labs doing basic science "use things like latex gloves, masks, protective goggles or face shields, and disposable gowns."

Then Carpenter got word that the donations could violate federal rules.

"I sent the note around and we started getting people donating things, and we got a notice from our admin. that it’s against NSF (National Science Foundation) policy to donate anything from a grant that’s been paid by NSF," she said.

Reached for comment, the National Science Foundation said such donations are "expressly prohibited."

But exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis, and they encouraged researchers to contact their grant managers if they wanted to donate. NSF told KUOW that the "process should not be overly time-consuming or bureaucratic."

It's unclear if that will be enough to get supplies to hospitals if demand spikes.

For its part, UW Medicine says they are receiving a lot of response on their call for donations. Individuals are also encouraged to donate money or supplies to help ease the supply shortage.