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COVID-19
From Ventura to San Luis Obispo, from Santa Barbara to Santa Maria, KCLU's in-depth, thoughtful coverage of all the news that matter to you.

Santa Barbara Based Relief Agency Makes 30,000+ Medical Shipments In Global Battle Against COVID-19

A forklift is moving a huge pallet of medical supplies though a more than 150,000 square foot warehouse in Santa Barbara.  It’s been a huge year for Direct Relief, the non-profit organization which supplies medicine, and medical supplies to those in need around the world.

Thomas Tighe is Direct Relief’s President, and CEO.  He says the shipments have been staggering, even for an organization used to making big deliveries to disaster zones.  They include 82 million PPE items, 30,000 medical shipments, and 69 million masks in the last year.

Tighe says early in the crisis, they realized the demand could be unprecedented.  He says the cue was when some well-funded big city hospitals in places like Los Angeles and New York asked for help.

The early demand prompted Direct Relief’s staff to think ahead.  What might be in short supply in three months, or six months if the pandemic deepened?  Alycia Clark, who’s Direct Relief’s pharmacist, says they put together kits filled with essential items for hospitals and clinics.

Now, the state has asked Direct Relief to help in a different way, as a potential staging area for vaccine.  Tighe walks us across the warehouse to a pair of huge refrigerators.  They are designed to meet the special cold storage needs of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

About 50 feet away are three more special refrigerators.  Each one is about the size of a big rig’s trailer, and they can together safely maintain about a million doses of the Modern vaccine. 

The cold storage facilities aren’t in use yet, but are on standby for when they might be needed.

Direct Relief has already backed up a number of hospitals, clinics, and even county health departments on the Central and South Coasts with PPE, and other essential supplies.

The demand for many essentials like PPE and ventilators has subsided in the United States because manufacturers have stepped up to fill the gaps, but the crisis continues around the world.  A Direct Relief crew is busy putting together a shipment of PPE and medicine for the African country of Malawi. 

Tony Morain is with Direct Relief.  He says if the United States, the world’s richest nation is having issues getting enough vaccine, imagine what it’s like for poor regions around the world.  He says even when the crisis subsides here, it will continue in places like Africa.

While Direct Relief stepped into the spotlight to help battle the pandemic in the United States early in the crisis, it’s never stopped with the less glamourous role it’s played for decades in getting aid to often overlooked part of the world.