Flushing senior center to receive donation of face masks amid coronavirus scare

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Photo courtesy of Sophie Hsu

The demand and price of a face mask has increased as fear continues to linger amongst senior citizens in Flushing since the coronavirus outbreak. 

In lieu of mask shortages, Steve Lee, a candidate for District Assembly 40, has purchased a total of 5,000 N95 masks that will be donated to seniors in Flushing on Saturday, Feb. 8, at 12:30 p.m. at the Self Help Benjamin Rosenthal Senior Center on 42-25 Kissena Blvd. 

“Given that this virus has resulted in racial discrimination and hostility towards Asians and Asian-Americans, we hope this act of kindness will remind the community that we should remain united regardless of age, ethnicity or social class in these trying times,” said Sophie Hsu, Lee’s campaign director. 

Lee’s donation comes amid the surging prices of face masks both locally and worldwide. According to reports, in Hong Kong, the price for a box of 20 N95 respirator masks were sold for HK$700 ($90 USD). The price for a box of 50 masks now costs HK$2,500 ($321 USD). At TESO’s in Flushing on Union Street, the cost for a 20-pack supply of face masks is $120. 

The N95 mask is used for sanding, sweeping, woodworking and working with fiberglass insulating particles. It also helps to protect against particles such as mold, granular pesticides, allergens and dust. 

Amid the coronavirus scare, the Flushing Self Help Center placed a bulk order of the sought-after face masks on Amazon two weeks ago, and is still awaiting the delivery, said Jane Qui, program director. 

According to Qui, because there is no mask available for the volunteers and cafeteria workers, senior attendance since Jan. 27 has decreased by about 100 per day. 

“We used to have 350 Friday participants and today we’re down to 250,” Quid said. 

“Although the CDC, governor and mayor said there are no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the city, there’s still panic and fear,” Qui added. “The donation from Mr. Steven Lee for the seniors is very much welcomed and appreciated.” 

Although the center remains open and group classes are canceled, Qui said she had received a message from a client saying it should be shut down. 

“They had said, ‘If my mother has something I will take you to court,’” Qui said. “Our number one task here is safety. We don’t want any seniors becoming sick at our center and we are very careful.” 

According to Qui, the Self Help Center has taken strict precaution by sanitizing the facility and providing seniors with a daily update from city officials on the coronavirus. She has reiterated the importance of seniors washing their hands with warm water and soap, covering their mouth while coughing and using hand sanitizer. 

“I’ve heard there are also other senior centers that are experiencing a decrease in senior attendance,” Qui said. “The flu epidemic is much more severe than the novel coronavirus.” 

To date, the NYC Health Department confirmed negative results for four people under investigation for novel coronavirus. One case is currently pending and testing will take at least 36 to 48 hours. 

Health officials say those who feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and traveled to Hubei Province China — or been in contact with a confirmed case the novel coronavirus — within 14 days of symptom onset:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about recent travel and symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Do not travel while sick.
  • Cover mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

For more information about the coronavirus, visit the Heath Department website at nyc.gov/health.


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