Coronavirus: Wuhan natives and others in Bay Area band together in relief effort

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- More than one million pieces of personal protective equipment has already been delivered to Wuhan health workers, because of Bay Area-based assistance.

San Jose resident, Tom Gong and a team of volunteers jumped into action when the coronavirus outbreak locked down Wuhan, China in January.

The group's first shipment to Union Hospital landed on Jan. 31.

"That very day before, the hospital declared an S.O.S to the whole society," Gong said. "They ran out of stock. That's nothing... So, it was very timely."

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Toward the end of that sentence, Gong started to choke up. The man, clearly hurting for his hometown.

Gong was born and raised in Wuhan, and graduated from an area university. He now lives in San Jose with his wife, who is also from Wuhan.

Gong recently banded together with other graduates of Wuhan-based universities, also living in the Bay Area, to help.

They quickly formed Wuhan United, a volunteer group by alumni of Wuhan University and the Huazhong University of Science and Technology on January 23, 2020 after Wuhan was quarantined.

As the deadly outbreak evolved, the group decided it was necessary to carry on its mission as a dedicated nonprofit organization. The official change happened on February 3rd.

"I haven't met most of them," Gong said about the other volunteers.

He estimated the group jumped from a handful of people at first, to probably an upwards of 60 people now.

However, on Friday, during a scheduled interview with ABC7 News, he finally met Zongchao Li.

Li handles the organization's communications.

Both Li and Gong explained learning about the shortage of medical supplies in Wuhan, and new they had to do something.

"I happened to work with an organization, Direct Relief, in 2008 when I was working at Google," Gong said. "I knew they were a great organization. I knew that they have inventory in their warehouse."

So they partnered with Direct Relief, which supplied much of the needed equipment including masks, gloves and isolation gowns.

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Wuhan United has helped with logistics. Specifically, volunteers help with customs forms and other paperwork needed to get supplies to hospitals in Wuhan.

Li and Gong said many of the volunteers with Wuhan United live and work in Silicon Valley.

Gong said several are also familiar with business in China, providing necessary connections.

"Many of them have a full-time job," Li explained about Wuhan United volunteers. "There are new moms who had a baby just two-months-old. This is just a really great group of people and everybody is trying to help."

Li also said Wuhan United's work is critical.

"Coronavirus is really a global crisis," she said. "It's threatening everybody."

Now, more people are getting involved in the effort.

Gong said Cisco, HP and other Silicon Valley tech giants are stepping up to help provide supplies.

FedEx is helping with free shipment. Click here to learn more about how FedEx is responding globally to coronavirus.

Click here to learn more about Direct Relief's efforts.

According to Gong, this team effort has already resulted in seven shipments, a total of 140 palates, one million pieces of equipment, total of 20-tons of supplies.

Gong said an eighth shipment is expected on Monday.
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