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Amid supply shortages, Vietnamese-owned nail salons donate thousands of masks, gloves, and gowns to local hospitals

As health care workers report dire shortages of medical and personal protective equipment amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnamese-owned nail salons across the country are donating protective masks, gloves and gowns to their local hospitals, reports NBC. 

According to the NBC report, when Huy Nguyen, an owner of Top Nails 2, closed his salon in Mobile, Alabama, two weeks ago due to the pandemic, he donated his entire inventory of protective supplies –a few hundred masks and eight boxes of gloves. 

In response to a Facebook request from a local Vietnamese pharmacist, dozens of other Vietnamese salon owners in Mobile collectively contributed more than 23,000 masks and 134,000 gloves to a local hospital. Nguyen later reached out to friends who own salons in other cities and urged them to join in these efforts and  contribute similar donations. 

“Fighting this virus is a responsibility for every one of us,” he told NBC. “We don’t work in the medical field, so we cannot fight the virus directly but we want to share our responsibility and share what we have with the community.”

The response to the pandemic by the salon owners has touched many, including Hien My Pham, a pharmacist at a local hospital in Mobile.

“It broke my heart to see my health care family share ideas on Facebook about how to make masks from cloth and how to protect themselves,” said Pham to NBC15.

Lisa Nguyen and her parents, owners of Cowboys Nail Bar in Plano, Texas, also decided to donate everything in their inventory— including 14 boxes of N95 masks — to family members working at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center after hearing about the supply shortages confronting hospital staff.

“Whatever we have, we only hope it will help not only our family members but their colleagues,” Nguyen said in an interview with NBC.

In Brentwood, Tennessee, the co-owners of Zen Nails have expanded their efforts by converting their nail salon into a factory producing face masks and gowns.

Employees reportedly volunteer for up to nine hours every day making protective equipment for local health care workers.

Salon co-owner Trang Nguyen worked as a registered nurse for several years and told NBC she’s still close with many nurses.

“When I saw a lot of them talking about how they are really short on equipment, I really wanted to help,” Nguyen said. “These people need to be protected before they can take care of patients. I thought we could do masks and gowns because my family knows how to sew.”

A week prior to the closure of all nonessential businesses on April 2, Nguyen closed Zen Nails and began to work on efforts to make protective equipment. Nail salon patrons reportedly donated sewing machines and funding to buy the raw materials needed for personal protective equipment.

According to NBC, in the first week of production, Zen Nails produced more than 3,000 disposable and reusable face masks and gowns, which they donated to St. Thomas Medical Partners, Williamson Medical Center and HCA Healthcare.

Rosalind Chow, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University, commented on the significance of the network effect in expanding charitable acts.

“People mainly know people who are similar to them,” she said. “That’s why you might see that once one nail salon owner starts organizing something, many more similar businesses will be inclined to contribute to that offer.”

“For business owners and employees to be willing to do this work and give up these resources without knowing whether or not they’ll be paid back is a real testament to their desire to help,” Chow said.

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