Alumnus Donates 1 Million Masks to Tufts

The supplies will help cover everyone on campus, a cornerstone of the university’s safety plans

Two disposable masks on a table. Ben Harburg, A06, has given Tufts University more than 1 million face masks so that students can be back on campus.

A Tufts alumnus has given the university more than 1 million face masks, ensuring Tufts has a sufficient stock of the essential protective gear to have students back on campus during the pandemic.

Ben Harburg, A06, who donated 350,000 masks to Tufts Medical Center in the spring, learned in August that the university would need an estimated 1 million masks to keep students, faculty, and staff well supplied for the semester. Harburg, managing partner with global investment firm MSA Capital, quickly purchased and shipped the masks, which arrived October 13.

The disposable masks, which will add to the inventory for use on all Tufts campuses, are designed to help contain the wearer’s respiratory emissions.

“What an incredible gift,” said James Glaser, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, who said the million-plus masks will “protect the health of our community and allow our institution to function and our students to continue their education.”

Harburg, who sits on the School of Arts and Sciences Board of Advisors, is well versed in Tufts’ COVID-19 safety strategy, which includes surveillance testing, social distancing, and mandatory mask use. Although students, employees, and visitors may wear their own face coverings, Tufts has been supplying masks to all who need them while on campus.

“Tufts has done a really admirable job of being very scientific, rational, and data driven around how it addresses containing this disease and protecting its students. At its foundation is the simple act of wearing masks,” Harburg said, noting that the spread of COVID-19 can be substantially curtailed by intentional human behavior.

Harburg said he hopes that preventing transmission on campus ultimately reduces the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals, particularly as infection numbers in the United States rise.

“I thought this was probably the best thing that we could do to support the students— to enable them to get back to school—as well as the health care professionals who are putting their lives on the line every day,” he said.

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