Chinese organizations mobilized to help fight COVID-19 in Chicago

Source: XinhuaNET

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by Jian Ping

CHICAGO, April 7 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese American in Chicago sent a plea for donation of face masks for a local hospital. The message, shared from instant messenger and posted to groups on WeChat, generated an immediate response.

Yvonne Lau initiated the call for help. Her husband, Shu Chan, works as an ER doctor at a local hospital on the north side of Chicago.

Lau said many friends had written to her expressing their concern for Chan working at the frontline of COVID-19. She posted her husband's response to her group of friends: "He thanks you for all your good wishes but he says what he really needs is more N95 masks and sterile gowns."

Lau said her husband had been re-using his one N95 mask for the past two weeks. "Every night after his shift he sprays it with Lysol and 'cook' it under the sun in a Ziploc bag."

N95 masks are on top of demand and difficult to obtain, but other masks for patients are in urgent need too, said Lau.

In the following day, 200 surgical masks were sent to AMITA Resurrection Hospital where Chan works via express mail by a newly launched Chicago Chinese-American Community Anti-COVID-19 Fund Drive. And another 5,000 masks would arrive at the same hospital within a week,.

It turns out that 12 Chinese organizations in the greater Chicago area have joined force three weeks ago to launch the Fund Drive, which have raised over 70,000 U.S. dollars.

"Over 100,000 surgical masks were purchased from China with the fund we raised," said Hong Liu, executive director of Midwest Asian Health Association, a key player for the joint organization. "They have been distributed to 15 local hospitals and clinics."

Liu said when she learned the nursing school where Lau works as Dean of Academic Affairs needed masks, she also donated 2,500 to the school.

Chinese American Association of Greater Chicago (CAAGC) sprang to action as well.

According to Jan Zheng, president of CAAGC, the organization has raised over 30,000 dollars so far, and has focused their support on three areas: donations of masks to the police force and senior citizens in the Chinese community, contributing funds to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund set up by the City of Chicago, and providing food services to seniors in the Chinese community.

"A total of 19,000 masks have been donated to various police stations in Chicago and the suburban areas," Zheng told Xinhua over the phone. "We'll also donate 10,000 dollars to Chicago's Response Fund."

Zheng said when they saw large numbers of the police force got infected with COVID-19 in New York City, they decided to protect the police men and women in the Chicago area so they can work to protect the public.

"Our support is not only for the Chinese communities but also for other American communities that need our help," Zheng added.

United Chinese Americans (UCA), a national organization that has a chapter in Illinois, has taken broader endeavors.

Lily Chen, president of UCA/IL, said via Cornerstone Education, a company in Chicago, they had donated their first supplies, including 3,000 N95 masks, 10,000 surgical masks, 200 eye shields, and 1,000 surgical gowns, to a number of hospitals and clinics in Chicago.

"Chinese students' parents and relatives in China are sending us supplies," said Chen. "More products are on their way."

Chen said that in addition to their relief efforts, UCA is also working on education about COVID-19. They have hosted webinars with medical experts to educate the public about the pandemic.

Another area of focus for UCA is advocacy. The organization is working with Illinois state legislators and senators against racial discrimination.

"We all need to unite together to fight the virus," Chen said.

Liu echoed the same sentiments: "We are concerned about negative attitudes toward Chinese. "

"We want to demonstrate with our actions that we are not only helping Chinese communities, but also mainstream public. We want to reduce any discrimination against Chinese," Liu added.

Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the Chicago area on Jan. 24, the virus has spread throughout the state. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued the "stay-at-home" order effective on March 21, and has since extended it from April 7 to the end of April.

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