By Syndey Brownstone and Brendan Kiley, Seattle Times staff reporters
A truckload of 50,000 N95 surgical masks, critical for health-care workers fighting the novel coronavirus, arrived at the Seattle home of a UW Medicine physician on Sunday— courtesy of Elon Musk and Tesla.
Dr. Kristina Adams Waldorf pushed her family’s ice hockey gear out of the way to make room for the dozens of boxes of masks and special helmets for health care workers being unloaded into her driveway.
Her daughters, Ceci and Maria, were put to work hauling the boxes inside.
“This is nuts,” Ceci, 9, said.
Kyrylo Musiyenko, driver of the van carrying the shipment, picked it up in Fremont, California, at 6 p.m. with instructions that it was urgently needed in Seattle. He arrived shortly before noon on Sunday in Adams Waldorf’s driveway.
“Hopefully it will help,” he told Adams Waldorf.
“It’ll help right away,” she said.
This lightning-quick donation was arranged in a matter of hours.
Adams Waldorf got a call Saturday from a physician friend at UCLA. The friend, whose brother works for Musk, knew that Tesla had been donating surgical equipment. She also knew Seattle was in dire need of personal protective equipment for doctors, nurses and other front-line medical workers.
“It was just so, so fast,” said Adams Waldorf, a physician at University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) who is starting a series of COVID-related research projects.
"The doctor friend called and said, “‘You’re the only person I know in Seattle!,'” Adams Waldorf said.
“I was told: ‘The truck is on the dock. They just need an address right now, no questions asked.’ I didn’t have the address for the supply-chain manager or a phone number. So I gave them mine.”
Musk, however, has become known not only for his generosity during the COVID-19 crisis. On Thursday, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO tweeted that children were “essentially immune” to the illness, though early research has indicated that kids, particularly younger children and babies, can develop serious COVID-19 complications. Twitter, which last week set new rules to discourage the spread of misinformation about the novel coronavirus, declined to remove the billionaire’s tweet.
But it isn’t just Musk and Tesla making the donations. After the call with her friend, Adams Waldorf posted a message on WhatsApp, explaining what had just happened. Overnight and through Sunday morning, she said, people have been leaving masks on her doorstep. She expected more to arrive, thanks to community members.
“I feel so, so good about being a small part of these donations,” she said. “To be at this critical shortage of personal protective equipment is frightening. We can’t have our health-care system crumbling at this moment.”
The masks kept coming. As Musiyenko and the Waldorfs unloaded boxes from the Tesla shipment Sunday, Tom Bysshe, an Amazon program manager, walked up to hand over some spare construction masks he had left over from a project. He lived nearby and had heard about the Waldorfs’ driveway from his brother-in-law, a doctor in New Jersey.
Shortly after Musiyenko pulled his white van back out of the driveway, a truck from UW Medicine backed in.
James May, systems operation manager for UW Medicine, got the call at 10:30 p.m. Saturday. He showed up with two white box trucks and his son, Donovan, 14, to help load the supplies from the Waldorfs’ garage to take to the hospital.
“It’s cool to see how community and kind of the extended network is pitching in to help out,” May said.
Adams Waldorf expects the materials to be put to use immediately. “For some items we have less than a week’s supply, and we expect a surge of patients to start coming,” she said. “This donation from Tesla is incredible.”
To donate personal protective equipment to UW Medicine, email Jennifer Hazelbrook at email@example.com.