In response to reports of multiple thefts of N-95 masks from Volunteer First Aid Squads in Edison Township, local officials procured supplies through community donations for Edison’s Office of Emergency Management and JFK Medical Center.

There is currently a widespread N-95 mask shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) rises.

“We have a critical need in New Jersey for personal protective equipment,” said Governor Phil Murphy on Thursday. “Our hospitals, health care workers, and first responders on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 can only be successful with access to these essential supplies.”

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In the midst of the shortage, Edison First Aid Squad No. 1 reported a total of 20 N-95 masks missing and Edison First Aid Squad No. 2 reported a total of 19 N-95 masks missing. The thefts occurred between March 14 and March 25, according to township officials.

Edison Board of Education member Jerry Shi, Special Assistant to Edison Mayor Mahesh Bhagia, and Edison Councilman Joseph Coyle are leading an effort to collect and donate the N-95 masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) after hearing about the thefts.

“It was very nice of them,” said Edison OEM Coordinator Andy Toth. “[The equipment] went to the hospitals and local doctor offices that were in dire need of them.”

Approximately 900 N-95 masks have been delivered to JFK hospital and 280 N-95 masks have been delivered to Edison’s Office of Emergency Management, along with a couple dozen goggles, another item that is currently in need by medical professionals dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Saturday, Mr. Shi said the group will be delivering an additional 400 N-95 masks to JFK hospital along with other protective equipment.

“We are currently working with community organizations, such as the American Association of Buddhist Education, to secure more N-95 masks for JFK Hospital and to make sure our hospital workers and others are protected, ” said Mr. Shi.

“First responders, Nurses and Doctors are in the front lines,” said Mr. Coyle. “If we can’t protect them first, we face unimaginable consequences,” he said.

About twenty families from the Edison Chinese American community, and local health care professionals, such as A-1 Dental, took part in donating PPE for the township.

“This is very important for first responders who don’t have the required equipment and need to be protected. They are always working for us - it’s our responsibility to make sure they are safe in these difficult times,” said Mr. Bhagia.

The group was able to secure the equipment through both in kind and monetary donations.

“We spent more than $2000 to purchase these items, and the rest is through donations. We will continue to help the hospitals and first responders. All these masks have been either been collected from people’s houses or shipped in,” said Mr. Shi.

“This has been a collective effort through all cultures, with a strong effort from the Chinese American Community. I have collected supplies from front porches around the state, from Clark to Plainsboro, Princeton to Lebanon,” said Mr. Coyle.