The current health care crisis born out of the coronavirus known as COVID-19 has made some routine medical supplies scarce. There is a shortage of surgical masks and N95 respirators that people working on the front lines of the pandemic and civilians in emergency rooms need to prevent the respiratory illness that has hospitalized hundreds in Georgia.

As the need has grown, there have been instances of communities responding to meet it. A Gwinnett-based business with special access to supplies needed during this time of crisis used personal connections to donate 500 N95 respirators and 10,000 surgical masks to Atlanta-area hospitals, including Northside Gwinnett.

“We are grateful for this donation,” said Gina Solomon, Northside Hospital Gwinnett trauma program director. “The outpouring of support from community members and local businesses such as McKinley Homes has been greatly appreciated by our hospital system.”

McKinley Homes is a Peachtree Corners-based developer behind Gwinnett communities such as Berkeley Township and Hinton Farms. President Jinsong Yang said the donation is a way to give back to the community that supports McKinley Homes.

“The doctors and nurses, they are fighting for people’s lives and health, and they are exposed at the highest risk,” Yang said. “I think as citizens of the community, our company will do whatever they can to help protect our medical workers.”

On Monday, boxes containing 5,000 surgical masks were delivered to Northside Gwinnett. A spokesperson with Northside Hospital Gwinnett said the masks will be distributed to departments throughout the Gwinnett campuses where there is a need.

Emory University Hospital in Atlanta also received approximately 5,000 masks, in addition to 500 respirators. The respirators are in high demand for medical professionals on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic because of their close facial fit and filtration efficiency to prevent respiratory diseases such as COVID-19. The FDA does not recommend these masks for the general public, but their supply is diminishing in the emergency rooms throughout the country.

Yang said for several weeks his company had been trying to place orders for masks and other high-demand medical equipment to no avail. He said some orders he placed weeks ago still have not been fulfilled, so he decided to go directly to the source.

Yang said a connection to a manufacturer in China helped connect him directly to a producer of surgical masks and N95 respirators. He said the cargo was directly shipped so it did not come into contact with unnecessary hands. Yang, who said “a friend” and “business partner” helped him skip the middleman and acquire the masks faster, said he’s been told Chinese factories are slowly ramping up production again after having to implement its own prevention orders.

“It’s still short of supply, even in China,” Yang said. “You need to have a relationship with some of the factories to have higher priorities.”

Yang said McKinley Homes is working to spread its resources to hospitals in-town and around metro-Atlanta. He said McKinley Homes contributes annually to Northside Gwinnett through the hospital’s foundation. While cases in the U.S. are on the rise, Yang is taking an optimistic stance on the status of the crisis. He believes that a face mask can provide some relief during trying times.

“We can win this war with the virus,” he said. “Everybody does not need to panic.”

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Taylor Denman is a reporter born and raised in Gwinnett County. He came back home to seize the rare opportunity of telling stories about the county in which he grew up.

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