LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As the coronavirus began to spread across the U.S., hospitals, health departments and elder care centers quickly burned through personal protective equipment and began demanding emergency management chiefs help them re-stock supplies.



About 62,000 square feet of the UPS warehouse is dedicated to the distribution of 175 different products used on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic. June 23, 2020


© Michael Clevenger/Courier Journal
About 62,000 square feet of the UPS warehouse is dedicated to the distribution of 175 different products used on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic. June 23, 2020

The Federal Emergency Management Agency went looking for sites with air shipping to handle the rush.

At about the same time, in early April, UPS leased a new building in South Louisville to expand capacity for its health care division.

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Soon after, a partnership was born.

Standing amid pallet loads of boxes of facial shields, N95 masks, digital thermometers, gowns and other gear at its newest warehouse and distribution center Tuesday morning, FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor and Michael Dossett, Kentucky’s emergency management director, said the partnership between the agency and UPS stabilized the supply chain at a crucial moment.



a man standing in a room: FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor, looks at supplies on a pallet at a UPS warehouse on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky. The facility warehouses and distributes PPE and other supplies for FEMA. 62,000 feet of the warehouse are dedicated to the distribution of 175 different products used on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic.


© Michael Clevenger/Courier Journal
FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor, looks at supplies on a pallet at a UPS warehouse on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky. The facility warehouses and distributes PPE and other supplies for FEMA. 62,000 feet of the warehouse are dedicated to the distribution of 175 different products used on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Speed was one of our primary goals,” Gaynor said. “The only way to do it is by air.”

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Read more: Kentucky reports 315 new COVID-19 cases as Louisville seeks hotel rooms for those isolating

FEMA was tasked by President Donald Trump to coordinate the nation’s emergency response to the pandemic. The contingent came to town to tour the Worldport air hub and other UPS health care facilities that handle medical supplies and pharmaceuticals from six sites.

The agency rounded up more than 72 million units, including COVID-19 test supplies, from China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Honduras and sent them to Louisville. And UPS has filled orders for 29 million of those items and sent them overnight to all 50 states and three countries.

Workers on Tuesday loaded boxes of gloves and masks for California, and a shipment of digital thermometers, 60 to a box, for Alaska.

So far, the coronavirus has infected nearly 2.4 million Americans and killed 123,000. In the nearly three months since the warehouse and distribution center opened, COVID-19 cases surged, leveled off a bit and have ticked up in recent weeks following the  reopening of the economy in several states.

Now that the country is no longer in panic mode over PPE, what’s flowing from the warehouse is back filling supplies in many locations. However, Dossett said, a predicted second wave of cases is a concern.

“We don’t know what’s down the line right now,” he said.

Still, FEMA expects to deplete its stock in Louisville over the next six weeks, and Gaynor said the local site or other locations around the country could be converted to handle distribution of virus vaccines, alcohol wipes or other therapeutic drugs.

Asked about the expenditures for 62,000 square feet of space, freight and logistics services in Louisville, Gaynor grinned and shook his head, saying, “millions and millions.”  

For UPS, whether FEMA is still its client later this year or it joins with another company, the open warehouse space soon will get a 47,000-square-foot freezer and 5,000-square-foot cooler.

Grace Schneider: 502-582-4082; [email protected]; Twitter: @gesinfk. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/graces 

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: UPS has a new facility in Louisville to distribute coronavirus supplies for FEMA

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