MAPLEWOOD, Minn. — When the fight against the deadly viral invader COVID-19 began, critical medical stockpiles were woefully short in hospitals and clinics across the country.

That shortage led to a dangerous scarcity of essential items like N95 respirators, face shields and isolation gowns.

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“We feel this is a war, a war with a virus against mankind,” said Dr. Laura Li, a neurologist with M Health Fairview.

Dr. Li is also president of the Association of Minnesota Chinese Physicians. In the Twin Cities it represents more than 140 Chinese-American medical professionals.

“We felt we can’t just go about our routine anymore, we have to step up and do something about the situation,” Dr. Li said.

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What AMCP members did was partner with their personal contacts in China. They could then identify, purchase and import what was hard to get here in the states.

“Because we have different connections in China, so we tried to ask friends and families to send us these PPE’s,” Fairview Cardiologist Dr. Dayuan Li said.

In just a couple of weeks the AMCP has donated more than 60,000 pieces of personal protective equipment to area hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. More donations and contributions continue flowing in thanks to the AMCP and members of Minnesota’s Chinese-American community.

“When we receive our PPE, yes it protects the professionals, but also in turn it protects our patients,” Dr. Laura Li said.

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And that act alone will go a long way to keep this pandemic from growing – while also filling a critical need until domestic medical suppliers can catch up.