As patients testing positive for coronavirus begin to pour into area hospitals, health care workers’ front line of defense is less than a millimeter of protective fabric—face masks and gloves that keep doctors and nurses from becoming infected with the virus themselves, and keep them from infecting other patients. 

But there isn’t enough of this vital gear to go around, and area hospitals—Duke Health, UNC Health, and WakeMed—are asking the community to chip in. 

One local company allegedly saw an opportunity in the crisis, according to a price-gouging complaint made to the state Attorney General’s Office, one of 225 such complaints the office has received since Governor Cooper declared a state of emergency on March 10. Most focus on stores jacking up the price of hand sanitizer or toilet paper. This one, however, alleges that a Morrisville-based business tried to charge Duke Health more than four times the normal cost of face masks. 

On March 11, Mike Kivel, the director of Duke Hospital’s supply chain, received an email from Oliver Block, a sales representative for Stephen Gould, whose website describes it as “the largest independent custom product and packaging solutions provider” in the country. 

Normally, Duke pays $35 for a pack of 17 N95 face masks, about $2 a mask, according to the price-gouging complaint. For a bulk order of 7 million masks, Stephen Gould wanted to charge $8.45 per mask, according to emails included in the complaint.

“Due to the extremely high demand, and sold-out U.S. supply, we’re currently importing products from Mexico and South America but it is all volume-based business and time-restricted,” Stephen Gould employee Sam Sweet wrote to Duke in a March 12 email. 

In the complaint, a Duke Health procurement employee called the pricing “usurious,” noting the manufacturer hasn’t changed its pricing. 

Representatives from Stephen Gould did not return the INDY’s request for comment. Duke Health spokeswoman Sarah Avery declined to comment on this alleged incident.

Duke, WakeMed, and UNC are asking the public to donate the supplies they need to fight the virus. 

“This situation is unprecedented, and we are asking for extra help,” says UNC Health CEO Wesley Burkes. 

The most urgent need is for N95 face masks, surgical masks, and nasal swabs. Hospitals are also asking for disinfectant, safety goggles, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, and shoe covers. 

Hospitals can only accept new, unopened supplies. 

Monetary donations are also welcome.

Drop-off Locations 

Duke Health

100 Golden Drive, Durham

8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

UNC Health

2001 Carrington Mill Boulevard, Morrisville

9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

100 Sprunt Street, Chapel Hill

8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

350 Stonecroft Lane, Cary

8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

UNC Rex Wellness Center

4200 Lake Boone Trail, Raleigh

9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 

Contact Raleigh editor Leigh Tauss at

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