By Gloria Lu
To say Covid-19 has profoundly disoriented our lives is probably an understatement. Three weeks of social distancing for most families in Bridgewater has tested our resiliency,unveiled the power of community, and awakened our creativity to better cope with the situation.
While there is no shortage of politicians and journalists bickering at each other, endless live conferences, and statistical models projecting the pandemic, there is a shortage of masks.These masks are part of the essential Personal Protective Equipment for healthcare professionals, grocery clerks, deliverymen, EMT crews, etc. in keeping the majority of us afloat during the crisis.
One of the task forces created by the Bridgewater Chinese American Association (BCAA) in February was “Supply Chain”. Led by Chris Zhang, Jean Lee and another resident, the goal has been to identify reliable mask manufacturers in China, purchase, ship, and distribute the masks throughout New Jersey. This has been made possible by generous donations from hundreds of local residents.
• Did you know that the team had to study different international standards to identify the appropriate models of masks that were acceptable by the US Custom?
• Did you know that both the US and China government regulations had changed rapidly (if not daily) on import and export requirements and restrictions?
• Did you know that most manufacturers require 100% payment up front recently?
• Did you know that the manufacturing and shipping leadtimes were getting longer, such as 10 weeks?
The team combed through operational details with hours of phone calls on top of their work and family responsibilities. This led to the purchasing and acquisition of 5,000 masks from China as of April 3, 2020. As a side note, another order of 5,000 KN95 masks could not be shipped to NJ last minute due to CDC’s change in regulation. The team acted swiftly, cancelled theorder, and used the funds to purchase 700 protective gowns, 200 pairs of boots and 120 protective hoods instead.
Realizing that supply shortage of PPE was becoming imminent, BCAA established a new task force last week with 30+ volunteers to make masks at home. The team lead, Ella Liu (previously a Certified Medical Assistant), has crafty hands. To alleviate shortage, Ella has been working tirelessly with volunteers to collect materials, provide instructions, collectmasks, and donate them to St. Peter’s Hospital (New Brunswick, NJ) and others based on their requirement. Who knew mask-making would become a “family activity” with moms and daughters digging fabrics and elastic bands from their linen closets, studying You-Tube videos, brushing up their sewing skills, dads ordering fabrics online and picking up donations from the neighborhoods, and handsome teenage boys posing as models with masks? To cater to a diverse population, some masks are tailored to youth with cartoon characters. Some masks have the bright stars, red and white stripes of our nation, and some are “seasonal” with brightly colored spring flowers. In honor of moms who didn’t have the luxury to enjoy the much-needed beautiful weather today while making 100+ masks, perhaps we could declare April 4 as “National Day of Masks”!
Facing adversity may obscure hopes for people, but we also know that the sun is above the clouds…