SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara-based Direct Relief is sending out its first charter of critical medical supplies to India, thanks to FedEx. Loading the massive cargo plane on a New Jersey tarmac wrapped up about 1:00 a.m. Eastern Time.
"Having FedEx step up and give us their largest aircraft at no charge, and all the capacity of their entire workforce -- top to bottom from Memphis to Mumbai -- that makes a huge difference," said Thomas Tighe.
NewsChannel 3 spoke with Tighe, President and CEO of Direct Relief, Friday morning via Zoom. He was in New Jersey monitoring Saturday morning's early cargo departure to Mumbai.
The 777 FedEx charter plane is capable of transporting roughly 100 tons of materials. Saturday's shipment includes 3,500 oxygen concentrators and 250,000 KN95 face masks, as requested.
Tighe also expressed his gratitude to Yardi Systems in Santa Barbara.
"Mr. Yardi has made a gracious contribution to help support where he has a couple thousand employes in Pune."
And, Tighe gave a shout-out to Goleta-based Inogen, one of the world's leading manufacturers of oxygen concentrators.
"They've bent over backwards to make their supply available to us and so we're deeply appreciative."
Tighe called the scale of India's distastrous and deadly surge in coronavirus cases "intimidating, sobering, scary."
"This virus continues to confound us all. I think, you rermember, California was the center of the global hot-spot about eight or nine weeks ago. Now, we're the lowest. These things change so fast. There's a false sense of comfort that can arise based on the data as it unfolds but I think it's not time to let our guard down. We've seen these variants and just the tragedy when people do let their guard down. Until recently, India was doing very well."
Tighe said Direct Relief was recently asked to play an even bigger role in India.
"Lilly (pharmaceutical company) has announced and asked us if we would be willing to serve as the distributor for charitable medications for their antibody therapy. Not a vaccine, therapy. And that's now being worked out with the Indian government as well."
Direct Relief is already preparing a second charter that will go out to India within the next two weeks.