Tuesday, March 31, 2020 / by Ken Couture
The Las Vegas Valley Chinese American community, which mobilized earlier this year to provide protective gear to doctors and nurses in China when that country was ground zero in the fight against the new coronavirus, has reversed the flow of the supply chain it developed and is now using it to aid hospitals in Southern Nevada.
The grassroots approach has even received the governor’s stamp of approval.
It comes at a time when hospitals in Southern Nevada, and elsewhere in the country, are rationing protective medical gear in high demand and short supply as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That has forced governments at all levels in the U.S. to search for new sources of supplies.
Jia Mei Wang worked in conjunction with the governor’s office this week to order 40,000 highly sought-after N95 masks and 25,000 pairs of gloves for hospital personnel at a cost of $157,000. The governor’s office will be distributing the supplies, she said.
Wang, who spearheaded fundraising in the past week that raised $90,000 to purchase the protective gear, said the governor’s office funneled an additional $125,000 in donations to the effort.
“Even the governor got involved,” marveled Jiaming Zhang, secretary of the Nevada Chinese Association, the nonprofit to which the money was sent. “He has trusted us to purchase much-needed N95 masks. He wired money to our account, and we’ll purchase this for the governor’s office. We can source the supplies.”
Gov. Steve Sisolak and first lady Kathy Sisolak, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, made a personal donation of $1,000 to the fundraiser. However, they were not the fundraiser’s organizers, a state government spokeswoman said.
Asked about the source of the $125,000 from the governor’s office, spokeswoman Meghin Delaney said, “Since the beginning of this crisis, the governor and the first lady have been encouraging Nevadans to help out in any way they can, including by donating.
“Just tonight, the governor mentioned that those who can donate should,” Delaney, spokeswoman for the Nevada Health Response Center, said Tuesday night. She declined to elaborate on the source or sources of the donations.
Wang said the masks and other supplies are being sourced through a company in Shenzhen, China. She located the supplier through a client earlier this year, when she organized efforts to provide protective gear to medical personnel in China’s Hubei province, where the pandemic originated.
She described as fate a chance meeting at Starbucks with the client, Daniel Tayga, whom she hadn’t seen in several years. As it turned out, Tayga’s company, Tayga International, serves as the U.S. and global agent for Wei Ming Medical in Shenzhen, a hospital and medical equipment and technology company that partners with manufacturers of protective medical gear.
Tayga, who lives in Las Vegas, agreed to help. “My job is to find the products that are needed and are very difficult to find,” he said in an interview Friday evening.
“The task is too big for the federal government to deal with by themselves,” he continued, and requires efforts by each state.
Before the chance meeting with Tayga, an earlier attempt by Wang to purchase supplies from a Canadian company went bust when it turned out the gear had expired.
By using WeChat, a social media app popular with Chinese people, Wang had identified the appropriate protective gear needed by hospitals in China — the same gear now needed by hospitals in the U.S.
Wang expects the governor’s order to arrive in the next week. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of surgical masks already have been delivered to hospitals around the valley, she said.
“Everybody needs to work together to overcome this difficult time,” said Wang, who added that donors have included real estate agents, restaurant owners and casino workers — even those out of work.
A separate effort led by the Vegas Gourmet WeChat Group also procured tens of thousands more surgical masks for donation to area hospitals, Zhang said. On Wednesday, 33,000 surgical masks were delivered to University Medical Center in Las Vegas.
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