MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Members of the Morgantown Chinese community donated $10,000 to WVU Medicine to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) like surgical masks, gloves and face shields, items which are in short supply nationally amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The community is part of the wider WV Chinese Association which has roughly 2,500 members in the Morgantown area. This is according to Wanhong Zheng, the Vice President of WVCA, who said the organization initially wanted to buy and donate the items but they wanted to make sure the products were approved by the Food and Drug Administration to be used in hospitals.
“We have been discussing what’s the best way to help the community, to help WVU or even Mon General Hospital to fight and we know these frontline people are kind of suffering a lot,” Zheng said. “That’s why finally we decided to collect the money from donors and try to do this.”
The group collected the money for two weeks, Zheng said. According to a WVU press release, more than 130 people from the WVCA donated, many of whom work at West Virginia University as professors or WVU Medicine. In fact, Zheng is a physician running the dual diagnosis unit at WVU Medicine’s Chestnut Ridge location.
It was through his work that Zheng learned about Bartlett Housing Solutions, an organization that houses, feeds and helps homeless people in Morgantown. Over a week ago, Zheng said, WCVA donated 500 surgical masks to Bartlett, which is currently quarantining around 90 people.
Zheng said the Chinese community in Morgantown wanted to buy masks for themselves but didn’t want to overwhelm the community by buying them here so they decided to turn to their connections in China. They asked for a donation of 2,000 masks from a friend of the group, they obliged and shipped the masks.
However, when they arrived, Zheng said, they knew about the shortages of PPE’s and decided “well why don’t we just give 500” masks.
“Everybody agreed that it was a great thing so basically then we donated 500 masks there,” Zheng said.
During the process of trying to raise money for WVU Medicine, they collected more than the $10,000 they donated Zheng said. They have a few thousand dollars left, with which they purchased 5,000 surgical masks from China.
“We have some surgical masks, we’re trying to donate them to people who really need them, so we’re good,” Zheng said. “We’re still in discussion now about where to give those to but this is something going on.”
Another thing the WVCA is actively working on is trying to dispel myths about the virus and Chinese people since the virus started in China.
In the era of social media, Zheng said, misinformation travels fast and it can be dangerous. He said they have been trying to counteract the fake information.
“What we have been doing is we use our social media,” Zheng said. “We try to tell people the right thing, follow CDC guidelines.
Finally, Zheng said, people should only trust information from peer-reviewed, evidence-based scientific outlets about clinical trials, cures, and all matters relating to COVID-19.