Lulu Wang's Mission to Help a Hospital Obtain Masks Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Lulu Wang - Publicity - H 2019
Elias Roman

Following her Twitter thread that gained traction last week, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with 'The Farewell' director about her role in amplifying a message from a medical facility in dire need.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic that is currently overwhelming the healthcare system, protective gear and surgical masks are a hot commodity, and many public figures are coming together to do their part in helping the medical community obtain more supplies. One of those people is film director Lulu Wang, known for The Farewell.

On March 19, this tweet of hers gained a lot of attention: "Hey guys, I need your help. My friend's sister is an ER doctor and says they desperately need N95 masks. If you live in LA and have unopened boxes of these masks please DM me. I will make you a cocktail in person when all this is over." The community responded immediately.

"It was really surprising how many people came through," Wang tells The Hollywood Reporter, explaining that she amplified her friend's message upon hearing that the ER doctor didn't feel safe and the hospital was getting an influx of patients. "The hospital told them to procure their own equipment, because, I think, they didn't have enough supplies," Wang continues. "In fact, a lot of them were being discouraged from using masks unless [they] knew for sure [they were] treating a COVID-19 patient." 

Among the issues that medical workers faced in obtaining more masks, Wang explains, was that places were selling out, or people were hoarding them or marking up the prices to resell. "That's why I posted it on Twitter, and a lot of people responded," she says. One of those people was Shonda Rhimes, who Wang says had already donated supplies from Grey's Anatomy

"One of the first rounds of donations that we got was from an FX company, so they gave us a huge bulk right at the beginning," Wang explains. "That kind of thing really helps. But it was mostly just civilians being like, 'I have ten [masks].'" There were also industrial manufacturers who came out of the woodwork, but as Wang says, "A lot of them are fake — scammers. It's really hard to do direct business when you don't have a distributor."

While her friends helped out by driving to collect masks, Wang responded to the various messages from people who had supplies and distributed the address of dropoff locations. 

She says that within the first 12 hours, they had 300 masks. "We did an inventory yesterday, and since we started this last week, [we've] collected over 1,000 masks if you include N95 and surgical, and over 1,000 gloves as well."

Supplies were distributed to her friend's hospital and then to other emergency units and community health clinics. "They sent us photos of everybody wearing them," Wang says, noting that this was just a group of people banding together and there was no real system in place. "Now we're trying to figure out a better system of getting supplies to all the hospitals locally."

As time goes on, Wang is planning to continue boosting these messages and doing what she can to help. "I think that there are a lot of donation centers opening. This week we've got a couple different dropoff locations with a list of the supplies that are needed aside from N95 marks, [such as] protective goggles, face shields, medical gowns, shoe covers. Even hand sanitizers — they're running out, using bleach with paper towels." 

She adds, "One of the doctors that I talked to says there's a really big disconnect with the administration saying that there are masks coming, but they're not. He said he feels like the hospital is on the Diamond Princess [the cruise ship where 21 passengers tested positive for COVID-19], because it's really fertile."

Wang has learned that the majority of emergency doctors in the U.S., particularly in California, are independent contractors, which means they're their own employer. "So they're responsible for their own sick leave. There's this natural bias because of that where, if they have a little bit of a sore throat, historically, they can't afford not to have income, so they'll work through it. That's particularly dangerous for patients right now, if they happen to have COVID and they don't have the proper resources."

She adds, "Most doctors are aware now that if they have symptoms they [will need to] take time off, which is very heroic of them. I think everybody is just trying not to get sick."

If you're wondering whether THR asked Wang what her cocktail of choice is (since she offered to make them for those who helped out with mask retrieval), we did. "I love a black Manhattan, and I really love a spicy Mescal margarita," the director says. 

Following our chat, Wang directed readers to this Instagram post to learn how they can help. 





Urgent call for donations of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare workers in LA! Please share widely! Hey, everyone - As u know, my sis is an ER doc in LA, and every doctor and physician's assistant at her hospital works at least at one other ER in the city. They've been reusing the same mask and goggles to treat presumed positive COVID patients and urgently need the following: • N95 masks - MOST URGENT • Surgical masks • Any other kinds of medical grade masks • Latex gloves • Face shields • Protective goggles • Medical gowns • Medical shoe covers • HAND SANITIZER - THEY’RE NOW HAVING TO USE BLEACH AND PAPER TOWELS. If you have any of the above, we are arranging 4 days of drop-offs this week. Opened boxes are okay so long as the equipment has not been used, but please sanitize your hands before handling materials! •••••••••••••• Drop-Off Times and Locations: Wed (3/25) & Thu (3/26): 10a-4p 1500 Silver Lake Blvd, LA 90026 Rolling donations accepted w/ advance notice - (323) 839-2886 Fri (3/27): 10a-4p Village Recording Studios 1616 Butler Ave, LA 90025 Sat (3/28): 8a-3pm Marina del Rey Cedars ER 4650 Lincoln Blvd. LA 90292 (ER parking lot off Mindanao, NOT main entrance on Lincoln) •••••••••••••• Posting the vid (again) of Dr. Wong, who diagnosed and treated the first C19 patient in the States, explaining what they need + some pics of grateful healthcare workers. Thank you thank you thank you!!! I can't believe we f'ing have to do this shit. You can text me directly with any questions you have: (323) 839-2886.

A post shared by patty ahn (@prof_patz) on