COVID-19 response: Faculty members mobilize network to obtain medical supplies

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to separate communities, families, co-workers and friends — but it is also bringing us together like never before. And it is inspiring University of South Carolina faculty and staff to step up their efforts in a time of need.

Two UofSC professors — Chuanbing Tang and Qian Wang, both from the chemistry and biochemistry department, along with many others — are shining examples.

In very short order, Tang and Wang have spearheaded an initiative to bring much-needed medical supplies to frontline health care professionals in South Carolina. In the process, their example is inspiring the Chinese and Chinese-American Gamecock communities to join in the fight against COVID-19.

After first approaching Chinese faculty at UofSC about donating medical supplies, the team encouraged alumni, postdocs and visiting scholars in the U.S. and China to donate as well. They further coordinated efforts with the Chinese Christian Church of Columbia, the COVID-19 Relief Fund, the Chinese Association of Columbia and the Columbia Chinese School among others.

“We have received extremely quick responses from our Chinese faculty on campus,” says Tang. “We are very grateful for their support. The UofSC administration, particularly President (Bob) Caslen, also supports this initiative and coordinates the communications with the PRISMA Health System.”

As of March 24, the team had delivered 100 N95, 80 KN95, 1,400 disposable surgical masks and 1,100 “level 3” masks with shield to the PRISMA Health System.

Additional supplies are on the way, as well, but will take time due to shipping and customs inspections. Bill Kirkland, director of the university’s Office of Economic Engagement, is working with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to coordinate distribution as donations continue to roll in.

“We expect within 7 to 10 days there will be thousands of disposable surgical masks and KN95 respirators arriving from our UofSC alumni in China as well,” says Wang.

But it’s not just gathering much-needed supplies that matter in times like this, say Wang and Tang. It’s just as important that the community come together to solve this ongoing public health crisis.

“COVID-19 virus is an invisible enemy to everyone in the world, regardless of our culture, ethnicity, financial situation or nationality,” says Tang. “We should work together and look after each other. As Gamecocks, together we unite, together we will defeat the COVID-19.”

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