Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- As medical supplies are running low across the country, thousands of face masks are headed to the Palmetto State and more donations are on the way.
This is thanks to the efforts of members of the local Chinese-American community.
At the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, our local Chinese-American community sent supplies abroad.
The group included the Chinese Christian Church of Columbia, The Confucius Institute of the University of South Carolina, the Columbia Chinese School of South Carolina and the Living Stone Chinese Christian Church.
Within weeks, they raised nearly $17,000 for the purchase of 20,300 masks and protective gowns.
Now, efforts are centered in the Palmetto State.
"We are really uniting as one to fight and defeat this disease," said Dr. Kevin Lu, Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina and President of the Chinese Association of Columbia.
With money left over from their initial fundraiser, combined with a new Pandemic Relief Fund, more than $14,000 is being used to get medical supplies for South Carolina.
"First off, we tried to find out what the needs were at the hospital. We understand there were going to be a lot of patients coming in, so that's the first step we did," said Dr. Jiang Zhang of the Chinese Christian Church of Columbia. "They basically told us what they need the most is masks, especially the N-95 ones."
Tuesday, they handed off 2,000 N-95 masks to USC to be taken to Prisma Hospital. Add that to 2,000 more masks scheduled to arrive this weekend and 100 handed off to The Free Medical Clinic Thursday.
The Free Medical Clinic's Executive Director, Freddie Strange, Jr., tells us:
Donations, such as personal protective gear, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, paper towels, and disinfecting/cleaning supplies allow clinics, such as The Free Medical Clinic, to continue to provide patient care through the COVID-19 crisis while protecting both staff and patients. Thanks so much to Dr. Zhang and Carolinas Dermatology & Plastic Surgery for this most generous donation.
"In this difficult time, I think our community members really want to get involved and help others," said Zhang. "If we work together, I think hopefully we will be able to beat this virus sooner."
Lu and Zhang tell us they're hoping for another 10,000 masks by Monday. Those supplies will arrive at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
In addition to supplies, Lu says they're looking to extend donations beyond hospitals.
"Many of the personnel on duty, for example, are policemen who are very important to our community to keep us safe," he said. "They probably need face masks as well. Nursing homes, for example."
They're sending support to other professions and possibly other states that desperately need it.
"We're not only committed to help with the local people here, but also throughout the United States, particularly in areas like New York, Washington and California," said Lu.
For more information on how you can help in these efforts, visit the Chinese Association of Columbia's Facebook Page, where they included a link to the donation site.
In a matter of days, the Pandemic Relief Fund received over $7,000 in donations.
Nearing the end of our FaceTime interview Thursday, Dr. Lu requested that the public not refer to COVID-19 as the "Chinese Virus."
This comes as hate crimes against the Asian community are popping up around the United States in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lu says locally, he's also getting reports of discrimination.
A coalition of civil rights groups set up a website for people to report incidents of discrimination.
A news release by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council said the information collected will help push for stronger protections for Asian American and Pacific Islander residents. The civil rights groups will also develop public education campaigns and provide resources to victims of attacks and discrimination.