Bringing 'Intellectual Expertise' To Help Solve The PPE Shortage

Volunteer is giving a medical professional three boxes of personal protection equipment on a gray cart outside of a hospital.
[Greater Cleveland Chinese Community]

Collecting donations, hauling boxes and making sure personal protective equipment (PPE) is getting where it is most needed are all actions more and more people are taking as the coronavirus fight continues in Northeast Ohio.

But the Greater Cleveland Chinese Community has more than logistical help to offer.

In mid-March, when the group heard how quickly the demand for PPE in Ohio was rising, they acted quickly and organized a group chat to discuss what they could do. The first day 80 people joined. The second day, it was 150. By the third day, more than 250 people were offering their help and expertise.

“Many people do not know each other, but somehow they know this urgent need for our frontline health care workers for the PPE,” said volunteer Yanfei Zhang. “We want to share the love and do something for [the frontline healthcare workers]. So that's how this started.”

Volunteers donatating personal protection equipment on April 4, 2020 [Greater Cleveland Chinese Community]

Financial and material donations were offered (and accepted!), but what makes the Greater Cleveland Chinese Community’s #coronakind efforts unique are their “intellectual donations.”

Engineers researched U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requirements for the best type of medical, surgical and N95 masks before volunteers ordered samples, to guarantee the masks would be both effective and a financial value.

Doctors tested the samples to ensure that they were choosing the highest quality masks available. Volunteers worked with Air China Airline Cargo Manager to certify fast delivery of shipments from China. Lawyers determined which Northeast Ohio locations to donate to and ensure all necessary paperwork was completed.

“It is really the team work from over 200 people who do not know each other. We share the same goal to do the fundraising for purchasing mask for frontline healthcare workers,” volunteer Shengyong Wang said. “Many volunteers, such as engineers, professors, college quality specialist, medical doctors, all came together using their expertise. There are a lot of details in the process.”

Flatbed truck with boxes in the back of it

[Greater Cleveland Chinese Community]

So far, the Greater Cleveland Chinese Community has sourced, checked and donated 47,900 medical, surgical, and N95 mask – and counting – to support frontline medical staff at 24 facilities throughout Northeast Ohio, including hospitals, nursing homes and homeless shelters.

“We are particularly proud to have donated to some smaller hospitals and clinics like Lake Health and University Hospitals Seideman Cancer Center,” Wang said. Donation recipients also include Cleveland Clinic Foundation, University Hospitals, Summa Health and Akron Children’s Hospital.

Social distancing is keeping donors and recipients from getting too close, but social media is helping them stay in touch.

Hospitals and individuals are sharing their appreciation on Facebook, Twitter and in personal letters. Mark Flash, director of the Lake Heath Foundation shared with Wang that “This is Gold,” after receiving 4,000 PPE.

“The responses are overwhelming. Thankfulness and appreciation,” Wang said. “We also appreciate, obviously, the hard work, the front-line health care workers who fight for our community and caring for our community.”

It’s a community that extends around the world. The group’s efforts to support people impacted by COVID-19 originally began with assisting friends and family living in China, including sending masks and other donations. Now, Wang said, many friends and family in China are sending donations back the other direction to help Cleveland.

“If you can see COVID-19 as a football game, the Chinese people in China played the first half. Americans, Europeans, the rest of the world is playing the second half. And American Chinese played the full game,” Wang said. “So we are involved from the beginning, it’s still ongoing.”

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