SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara-based Direct Relief has already sent more than 30 tons of supplies to China since the coronavirus outbreak began. Now, the non-profit is sending help across the U.S., in the form of supplies and $2 million in emergency funding to areas with coronavirus patients.
Direct Relief is working with Santa Barbara County and the state of California.
Most of these supplies are personal protective equipment—gloves, goggles and N-95 masks. These supplies are going directly to health care providers, who need them to stay healthy while treating patients.
The unpredictable nature of the coronavirus spread, however, is making it difficult for Direct Relief to develop a complete plan.
“This is something you don’t see very often in the United States,” said Damon Taugher, Direct Relief’s VP of Global Programs. “We’re active in response to wildfires, to hurricanes, earthquakes, basically multiple times throughout the year… but these kind of complex emergencies require studying of news, watching what the federal officials are saying.”
“We initially actually purchased the N-95 masks for the California wildfires, just in preparation that there will be worse fires over time,” Direct Relief pharmacist Alycia Clark said. “In preparation for the wildfires, we’ve actually had a pretty good stockpile.”
But that stockpile has begun to shrink as the virus spreads. A global shortage of the masks is making it difficult for Direct Relief to re-stock them.
“We’ve been trying to order and checking stock on a daily basis,” Clark said. “But a lot of [suppliers] are rationing the supply. So we’re able to get what we can. But it’s been pretty slow.”
Another wildfire could also hurt Direct Relief’s current stock of masks.
There is help pouring in, though. The non-profit says it has received $1.7 million in donations, just in the month of February.
“It’s just always amazing to see the tremendous outpouring of support for people who are affected, that have never met one another and never will meet one another,” Taugher said. “The generosity of folks that we’ve had, asking of ways they could help people in China, initially, and now here in the United States, is always very overwhelming for us.”
The supplies are currently going from Direct Relief to 12 different sites in the U.S.
Soon, supplies like pain medication and sanitation wipes could be sent out en masse across the country as more and more of those items become necessary in treating the virus.