SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Dozens of boxes containing thousands of donated personal protective equipment (PPE) were dropped off at the University of Utah Hospital Thursday morning, thanks to Utah’s local Chinese community. It was their way to show appreciation to our healthcare works on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ultimately, we are a joint community who is experiencing this disease. We’re a joint community who is fighting this disease and we’re a joint community who is going to survive this disease together,” said Jessica Zhu, a 4th-Year Medical Student at University of Utah School of Medicine.
Zhu said the local Chinese community’s efforts has given her another channel to give back since clinical activities have been suspended for medical students for protect them against the virus.
“While I’m not on the front lines right now, I desperately wish I could be. Maybe in a few years. It’s been really hard being out of the clinical environment. But I’ve been inspired by our Chinese community who’s donating so much of their time and energy to help our front line healthcare workers. I hope to one day join them with the kind of fervor these people have,” she said.
More than 20 local Chinese organizations collaborated to form the Chinese Utahns’ Alliance Against COVID-19 (CUAAC) at the beginning of March. Since then, they’ve raised nearly $75,000 to purchase these supplies overseas to donate.
“The thing I like the most about this story is that it will be kind of a foil to all of the negative press that’s happening. We think about the anti-Asian racist and violent acts that are happening throughout this country. No excuse for them, very despicable. This is the story that really makes the difference,” said Dr. Jose Rodriguez, Family Physician and Associate VP for Health, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for University of Utah Health.
Dr. Rodriguez is also the Associate Medical Director at the Redwood Health Center and said there’s been concern about protecting their providers.
“COVID has made all of us a little bit anxious. So any kind of news that happens and comes to us tends to be escalated to the worst place whether there’s an actual, physical, real shortage. It almost doesn’t matter because we’re hearing about it and it increases people’s anxieties,” he said.
He added, “The idea that there was a gift available is very touching. We feel loved, validated, and fortunate that we’re able to continue providing protection and feel emboldened to do the work that needs to be done.”
This is not the first or last donation the alliance will make. They’ve made previous donations to the Utah COVID-19 Task Force, other University of Utah hospitals and clinics, Intermountain Healthcare, St. Mark’s Hospital, Bear River Health Department, and more.
“This group has gotten together even before we had the national emergency because they knew it was coming and talked about what they could do for the Utah community,” said Rep. Karen Kwan. “These are true Americans. These are people who love Utah, love America and they’re doing it because they know it’s the right thing to do and they want to be a part of it. I’m so proud to be Chinese American and more importantly, I’m so proud to be a Utahn.”
They have several more donations scheduled for police and fire departments, senior living centers, refugee and immigration organizations, school districts, as well as homeless groups.
“This collective donation effort demonstrates our care and support for our community and local medical institutions in the war against COVID-19. We always say that China is our motherland, but America is our home. Utah is our home,” said Bill Jiang, President of CUAAC.
Thursday’s donation to the University of Utah Hospital consisted of 5,000 N95 respirator masks, 4,000 medical face masks, 1,000 disposable masks, and 200 protective suits. The cost totaled approximately $30,000.
“There is a shortage of N95s all over the country. That’s why this is miraculous. I cannot thank our Chinese neighbors enough who actually went through the work to get this material for us. We are very grateful,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “I’ll tell you that we are starving for good news like this.”