Goleta-based Direct Relief has partnered with FedEx Cares to ship personal protective equipment nationwide to help underserved communities combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Direct Relief’s partnership with FedEx Cares has allowed the nonprofit to distribute more than 4.3 million masks, 3.1 million gloves, 622,000 face shields and 100,000 gowns.
Direct Relief is the largest nonprofit provider of protective gear in the United States and is active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries as it focuses on providing services and PPE to communities that may not be able to pay for them.
“In emergencies, everyone is vulnerable to some extent. But some are more vulnerable than others,” said Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe. “The people who are more socially vulnerable are the ones who rely on nonprofits to access these resources.”
Just four days after the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the U.S. on Jan. 19, Direct Relief sent its first delivery of PPE to Seattle. Since then, the nonprofit has shipped out 10,200 deliveries to health facilities throughout the U.S. and globally.
“While we’re trying to help people everywhere, we want to make sure we take care of ourselves and our community, too,” Tighe said.
Direct Relief has been in close contact with health clinics and centers in Los Angeles and San Francisco because those populated cities are the ones that have been hit the hardest. The nonprofit used its existing inventory of PPE to begin delivering shipments almost immediately.
It keeps a large stockpile of supplies so it is able and prepared to respond the minute a disaster like the coronavirus pandemic hits.
“We have expanded the flow of deliveries severely since this all began,” said Tighe. Direct Relief looks to donations to continue purchasing supplies once its stock dwindles down. Charmin toilet paper, an Oxnard-based Procter and Gamble brand, recently donated $2 million to Direct Relief to help out communities in need.
About 1,000 care packages have been shipped to community health centers and free clinics in underserved areas. The care packages include sets of exam gloves, disinfectant wipes and N95 respirator masks.
Tighe praised the partnership with FedEx Cares, noting that delivering the shipments would not have been made possible without FedEx.
“We see a chronic gap that exists for people who are poor or vulnerable in this country, which is why you have government services. But sometimes those services don’t reach everybody,” he said. “It would have been impossible to reach everybody without the logistics of FedEx. The value of their contribution is far greater than whatever services we would have had to pay for if they weren’t doing it for free.”
Tighe said Direct Relief’s volume and pace of activities has stepped up more in the past 70 days since the eruption of COVID-19 than it has in the past 70 years.
Along with providing PPE, Direct Relief also donates medications and health supplies to free medical clinics. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, it has shipped 500 “push packs” of medication for intensive care units. Each push pack holds enough ICU critical medications and supplies to last for at least 100 hospitalized patients.
“The point is to get these resources to the people who need them,” Tighe said. “It has required a real acceleration and expansion of our operation.”
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