As if you needed one more reason to love Lulu Wang, the Independent Spirit Award-winning filmmaker behind last year’s hit tragi-comedy “The Farewell” can now add one more title to her growing list of accolades: Grassroots organizer. After hearing about the dangerous shortage of personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks, the Los Angeles-based director took to Twitter to crowd-source any extra supplies non-essential personnel may have laying around.
Over the weekend, Wang tweeted: “If you live in LA and have any unopened boxes of these masks please DM me. I will make you a cocktail in person when this is all over…!” The response from her 67,000 followers was far greater than she had expected. Much to her surprise, Wang and her friends have been able to collect over 1,000 masks and gloves so far, with three more donation drop-offs scheduled.
Speaking to Slate, Wang said she heard about the PPE shortage from a friend’s sister, an ER doctor who worked at a hospital that was telling doctors to find their own protective gear. They were given only a small stipend, and the limited supply of masks on sale are being marked up enormously.
“These doctors were not able to get enough masks, and a lot of them [were] using masks that were not a surgical grade, not using N95 masks, and sometimes having to just reuse the same mask over and over again. I think they were scared,” Wang told Slate. “All I really did was to help amplify that message by putting it on my social media and was really pleased by how many people came through.”
Wang was shocked at the response, but clearly tapped into communities that may not have realized just how much critical gear they had lying around. “People out there, whether they’re people that work in construction or special effects, probably have them in storage without realizing it. As of this weekend, we got like a thousand masks and a thousand pairs of gloves.”
Even more disheartening is that a lot of ER doctors and nurses are independent contractors, meaning they don’t even get paid sick leave. According to Wang, the donations made these people putting themselves at risk feel cared about.
“I think that it was just this feeling of being on the front lines and putting their lives in danger, but nobody actually cares about them staying safe,” said Wang. “And then on top of that, not having masks or any kind of supplies to stay safe and to keep their patients safe just makes it that much more stressful. The thing that I heard the most was that psychologically, emotionally, it was meaningful that so many people do care about them. It made them feel like they weren’t alone, and that people care about their safety.”
As for that personal cocktail she promised on Twitter, Wang encouraged people to just stay home. But she did hint that she and partner Barry Jenkins are hatching a plan to follow through once it’s safer to congregate.
“Barry [Jenkins] and I’ve been joking about doing curbside cocktails, so when we make people a cocktail, we’ll just leave it in the driveway. And people will just come through for it.”