Northwest River Supplies plans to distribute tens of thousands of personal protective equipment to area medical personnel and first responders in the coming weeks to combat the shortage of equipment because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NRS CEO Bryan Dingel said.

“We’re living in unprecedented times in the history of mankind,” Dingel said. “In the history of mankind, there’s never been a demand for a single disposable product by this many of the world’s billions of people all at once.”

Dingel said the exception might be toilet paper.

NRS is based in Moscow and is a worldwide leader in paddlesports equipment and apparel.

Dingel said the first shipments of PPE, which includes masks, respirators, goggles, gloves and gowns, arrived in Moscow last week when about 60,000 pieces of equipment rolled into Moscow Thursday.

He expects tens of thousands of units to be delivered to NRS and then distributed locally and throughout the region each week in the coming weeks.

“The numbers are changing on a weekly basis based on what demand is,” Dingel said. “I’m expecting now a glut of PPE by mid-to-late May based on how many container ships are being loaded and how many factories are increasing capacity.”

NRS will redirect portions of its supply chain, logistics and distribution operations to support the cause, according to a NRS news release. The company operates a business division that supplies safety and rescue equipment to government agencies and nongovernmental organizations for emergency preparedness and disaster relief.

“Because we already have this division in the company, it was an easy shift and it wasn’t that big of a decision for us to make,” Dingel said.

Around the time NRS was looking to change its distribution channel, Dingel said local health care professionals asked if the Moscow company had resources that could be donated or purchased.

“That kind of supercharged our efforts to get this done and get it done immediately,” he said.

NRS will donate 500 procedural masks each to the Moscow Volunteer Fire Department and the Pullman Fire Department, Mark Deming, NRS director of marketing, said in an email.

MVFD Chief Brian Nickerson said NRS’s contribution will help tremendously.

Peter Mundt, Gritman director of community relations and marketing, said the hospital placed an order with NRS for N95 masks and surgical masks.

NRS will offer medical facilities, such as Gritman, fair-market pricing for PPE, the release said.

Dingel said it is harder to move PPE from China to the U.S. than it was two weeks ago. He said new shipping rules imposed by the Chinese government is causing a three- to five-day delay.

The demand for PPE is increasing but flights are being canceled because of a lack of pilots and airports, Dingel said.

PPE distribution is resembling the Wild West. Dingel said an NRS shipment of more than 50,000 units was because of leave Saturday. It was paid for and inspected and when NRS’s courier arrived to retrieve the shipment, it was gone. The manufacturer had already sold and shipped the equipment to a buyer in Europe, who paid a higher price for the PPE, Dingel said.

“It’s combat right now over there,” he said.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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