El Granada resident Soleil Sun saw this coming. In January, while she and her friends were watching the COVID-19 disease kill thousands in China, they got to work, pooling some money to purchase 10,000 FDA-approved surgical face masks directly from a trusted manufacturer.
Months later, the masks have arrived, and Sun and her friends are donating them to frontline workers in need.
“We saw how things were, the whole outbreaks in China at the end of last year, and how things went down pretty quickly there,” Sun said. “We figured we can learn from other peoples’ mistakes.”
They sent the first 5,000 masks to health care workers in New York, where shortages of personal protective equipment were making their already overloaded hospitals even deadlier. The other 5,000 they’re distributing here in the Bay Area, with 2,500 masks headed to facilities in the East Bay and the other half closer by, to Seton Medical Center and Seton Coastside, San Mateo Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente and Senior Coastsiders in Half Moon Bay, among others.
After Sun posted to Nextdoor about the masks on Sunday, she said the requests started rolling in immediately.
“I’m doing my part here, because I figure on the Coastside, we might not have that many cases at the moment, but you never know,” Sun said.
Half Moon Bay resident Carol Scherba is one of the people who came by Moss Beach Park on Tuesday to pick up some masks. Her daughter works as an occupational therapist at John Muir Health in Walnut Creek, where they’ve had to cut down to using one mask per day.
Scherba said her daughter can’t tell her much about the situation at the hospital to protect the privacy of her patients, but said she suspects they have COVID-19 cases and are expecting more. Her daughter was feeling sick a few weeks ago, but tested negative for the virus.
When Scherba saw Sun’s online post, she messaged immediately, asking for as many masks as she had available. Sun was able to give her 150 for the Walnut Creek hospital. Scherba said she is getting involved with the relief effort too by learning how to make her own cloth masks to give out.
Moss Beach resident Joseph Morales was also there on Tuesday to pick up 100 masks. He is a care navigator for San Mateo County’s health system, the only member of his team who lives on the Coastside. His team of 20 works with at-risk populations on the ground, like those in homeless shelters and hospitals. He said if they stay careful, they’re able to use one mask per day, and the extra 100 he received from Sun should allow his team to keep working until the county’s next shipment of PPE arrives.
“The county is so huge,” Morales said. “There’s certain processes in place, so sometimes it’ll take some time to get to the individual teams. … We don't know a lot about this virus, so we just want to protect ourselves out in the field.”
Sun said the effort was personal. She has asthma and her husband works in health care in San Jose. She has two kids, the youngest only 8 months old, and while their house is under construction, they’ve all been staying with her in-laws who are older and more at risk.
Sun said the virus has brought out some negative realities, like discrimination against her family for their ethnicity, but she wanted to counter that with generosity.
“We are facing some kinds of discrimination as Asian-Americans,” Sun said. “... But I just figure, we are stronger together. I know it’s not a lot, but we are just doing what we can.”