Buddhists across North America are raising money to buy FDA-approved surgical masks from China. Local Zen teacher Guo Gu is spearheading the project titled 'Dharma Relief.' He's founder of the Tallahassee Chan Center.
The masks bought through the initiative are going to U.S. and Canadian hospitals. Locally, Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and Capital Regional Medical Center will be receiving masks through Dharma Relief. According to Guo Gu, the project has raised close to $500,000 so far.
"The idea is to call out on all the Buddhists to unite our forces, spreading the word to raise funds... 100% of it to purchase FDA-approved surgical masks made in China," Guo Gu says.
The project covers the cost of buying and shipping the masks. So far, Dharma Relief has already purchased 140,000 masks, and today they put an order in for an additional 100,000.
"We can't purchase all the masks all at once because a lot of these manufacturers are working with the government in China. So they have a cap of what the state needs and what individual corporations, people can procure. There's a cap. So we have to order day by day."
He explains the Chinese government controls some of the larger manufacturers that have been around for years. Guo Gu says the masks being made in those places are being sent out to other countries. What's left are smaller manufacturers, and vetting them can be challenging.
Dharma Relief has two liaison's on the ground in China who do the vetting. These liaisons contact surgical mask manufacturers and gets sample masks sent to them. They then examine them, research the manufacturer's history, and make sure the companies are listed on the FDA website as licensed to produce surgical masks.
"We are trying to be as careful as possible because the last thing we want is getting masks that don't really work," Guo Gu says.
Dharma Relief can only ship ten boxes per day due to a cap placed by the Chinese government. Guo Gu says that slows down the process. Each box contains around 2,000 masks.
Multiple efforts across the city are underway to give people masks. Staff at Tallahassee Community College has 3D printed masks. Others have been sewing cloth masks provided by local company DivvyUp.