Tales from the crypt: Washington cathedral digs up 5,000 respirator masks

Washington (AFP) –


With respirator face masks in short supply, the Washington National Cathedral dug deep underground to find its long forgotten stash -- in its crypt.

The massive Neo-Gothic cathedral in the US capital said Wednesday that 5,000 masks purchased more than a decade ago had been forgotten in its crypt level deep below its nine separate chapels.

As US health officials sounded the alarm over the shortage of masks during the coronavirus pandemic, some staff noticed the stockpile set aside for priests.

"The masks were purchased more than a decade ago following a previous health scare," the cathedral said in a statement.

"They were meant to allow clergy to provide pastoral care without putting their own health at risk."

It said that after checking to be certain they were still safe to use, 13 boxes containing 3,000 masks were being donated to Georgetown University Hospital, and nine more boxes with 2,000 masks were going to Children's National Hospital, both in Washington.

A few masks will be held on to for the cathedral clergy, just in case, it added.