Chinese Americans Unite Over WeChat to Fight COVID-19 in NY Despite Experiencing Abuse

"We’re born Chinese, but we’re Americans by heart."

New York hospitals

A New York Times article has compiled a list of Chinese American associations and groups who have raised funds to secure and donate masks to New York hospitals during the COVID-19 crisis.

Despite the current climate and the increased number of hate crimes and racially-charged attacks targeted at Asians, Asian Americans are stepping up to combat the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators.

New York has become the epicenter for coronavirus in the United States. According to Worldometers, as of this writing, out of the 388,336 reported cases, New York stands at 138,836, standing at a little over a third of the total country’s cases.

The Times noted that emergency room doctor Dr. Peter Lee was one of the few doctors who were “under siege” from “dodging exposure to the coronavirus,” battling the fear of “infecting his pregnant wife and young daughters,” and “navigating a new bias against Chinese-Americans.”

As Dr. Lee said in the article, “Comments like calling this ‘the Chinese virus’ have ramifications for someone like me.” As the son of immigrant parents, his father, in particular, moved from Beijing to Albany with only $60 in 1986.

“They fuel a certain prejudice against my kind,” he continued.

Dr. Lee took his concerns and pleas for the lack of PPEs to WeChat, and it was there that the Chinese American community responded.

Through various networks of WeChat, groups and people including the Millburn Short Hills Chinese Association; the Long Island Chinese American Association; The Coalition of Asian-Americans in Private Practice; a group of Chinese American professors at Rutgers University; a church in Parsippany; Shen Tong‘s college alumni group, and his Facebook friend groups including Burning Man and Occupy Wall Street; the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation; Li Lu, the chairman of Himalaya Capital Management; Jack Ma and Joe Tsai; and the Committee of 100; have campaigned, donated, and contributed toward supplying New York hospitals with masks, ventilators, and gowns.

Millburn raised over $50,000 towards obtaining 10,000 masks, gowns and distributed them to Envision Physician Services; Long Island delivered over 10,000 masks to three hospitals and nearly 8,000 surgical masks to the Visiting Nursing Service of New York; the Coalition with almost $250,000 since January, expecting to get 80,000 N95 masks to New York hospitals in April; the Rutgers University professors with $12,000 and over 4,000 masks to a hospital in New Brunswick; the Parsippany church with thousands of mask to hospitals and local gas stations; Tong’s alumni group with $100,000 to China and then the U.S., and medical supplies to SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Lenox Hill, and other city hospitals; Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation with 1,000 ventilators to Kennedy International Airport; and Committee of 100 with $1 million.

The Times revealed that “donations had come from both Americans and Chinese nationals, but many Chinese companies are secretive about being named.”

“One of the reasons is compliance and F.D.A. certification, or lack thereof,” Shen Tong said.

The reasons for the WeChat usage was due largely to the fact that this was a form of communication between Chinese Americans and their friends, relatives and business connections based in China. The masks they are supplied with are manufactured in China and Chinese companies like Dasheng based in Shanghai.

Mae Ngai, a professor of Asian American studies and history at Columbia University, told NYT, “Some individuals’ bias toward Chinese-Americans would not prevent the community from helping to end the crisis.”

With Dr. Ngai and Dr. Lee hoping that the public can see the efforts of the Chinese American people, Dr. Lee closed, “I hope people understand that the American Chinese community is very much vested in American life. We’re born Chinese, but we’re Americans by heart.”

Feature Image via Michael Walter (left), Ashkan Forouzani (right)

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