Written by Daphne Liu
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Dilber Shatursun
Rush hour during the new coronavirus pandemic in New York City is a strange sight. After the state implemented stay-at-home orders for non-essential businesses, traffic now moves rather smoothly. But, in the city that never sleeps, there is great panic behind closed doors.
Hoping to relieve some of this panic, Tzu Chi volunteers at its Northeast regional headquarters are in the right place at the right time. They are located right in the pandemic’s current epicenter, where the numbers indicate that New York City alone has more confirmed COVID-19 cases than China currently does as a whole country. This, perhaps, is one of Tzu Chi’s greatest calls to action.
Volunteers gathered at its Flushing office, where they packed a total of 4,000 surgical masks and 470 N95 respirators. They would be delivered to the embattled Elmhurst Hospital and Harlem Hospital Center.
Supporting Frontline Heroes
Healthcare workers across the city have been posting to social media about the war-like conditions at their workplaces. This includes Elmhurst Hospital Dr. Barbara Porrello Perez, a physician who works in pediatric emergency medicine. Exhausted after a long shift, she expressed dismay at not being able to sufficiently meet the needs of every patient.
Dr. Porrello told us that she had heard from her colleagues that someone bought medical masks at an unbelievable price; about ten times the normal price.
Tzu Chi volunteers deliver the supplies to Elmhurst Hospital’s Dr. Guangdong Liu and Dr. Huajun Huang. Carrying the boxes, Dr. Liu teared up.
He also shared some of his concerns for the future. “I hope to share some resources with the community because their stores and businesses are greatly affected, and there may be financial problems for them as we go forward. Let’s share some love with them!,” he said.
Hearing all this from healthcare workers on the frontlines, Tzu Chi volunteers felt a stir. And some, like Huijung Lee, have been brewing on these thoughts for some time.
Reflecting on the severity of the pandemic, Huijung resolved to deliver medical supplies to the Harlem Hospital Center alongside her son. Feeling a motherly instinct for those on the frontlines, she was determined to bring them herself.
Staying Home to Flatten the Curve
As more and more cases are confirmed each day, and as spring heralds the beginning of the allergy season, it is important for the public to know what to do if they suspect they may be infected with the new coronavirus. First, they should consult their primary care doctor, either online or by phone. Arriving at a doctor’s office in person could expose others to potential risk. Private practitioner Dr. George Hall emphasized this.
Dr. George Hall has been working from home for the past two weeks. He is averaging consultations with roughly 60 patients a day, with a majority of them being Chinese speakers. He uses whatever means he can to assess patients’ situations, including photo messaging and video chats. “During the consultation, I will look at the patient’s tongue and face and listen to whether or not they have shortness of breath,” he shared.
Dr. Hall estimated that more than half of the patients had flu-like symptoms, including possible COVID-19 cases. According to the symptoms, highly suspected cases of coronavirus accounted for about one-third. Fortunately, many symptoms are mild.
However, Dr. Hall also emphasized that everyone must continue to be cautious and implement preventive measures since the variable nature of the virus may present gaps in containing the coronavirus disease. He explained that “many patients experience mild symptoms and recover after infection, but having never been diagnosed by testing, they may become super-transmitters.” This emphasized his point of carrying out as many tests as possible.
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