Skip to main content

Chester County Press

County’s economic council acquires 3.5 million protective masks – from China

04/28/2020 03:27PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

From the dust and confusion of an on-going battle at Chester County hospitals, a cavalry in the form of a local economic group has just emerged, with a firm commitment that much-needed reinforcements are on their way.

Working hand-in-hand with Chester County government officials, the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC) has acquired more than 3.5 million face masks for the county’s Department of Emergency Services, as well as emergency services teams in Delaware County and Berks County.

Recipients of the face masks will be first responders as well as health care providers whose agencies submitted unmet needs requests through their municipality’s Emergency Management Coordinator. Those requests are forwarded to the county level and prioritized as “Critical” or “Routine” based on a formula that assesses current mask supply at a particular facility in relation to how many masks are being used daily. Critical needs are fulfilled that day or the following day; routine needs require a few days or up to a week.

So far, the county has received 400,000 masks, with the remaining supplies in transit, including N95 masks, also known as respirators, and disposable medical masks. The PPE has been distributed to fulfill all critical needs requests in Chester County.

CCEDC was first approached by Chester County government officials to assist in the vetting and securing of an overseas supplier of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the end of March, after requests for assistance at the local, state and federal levels resulted in low fulfillment due to global shortages. At the same time, CCEDC was receiving PPE assistance requests from its vast network of regional health care leaders.

“That’s when we turned to CCEDC’s Global Business Advisors board, a partnership of more than 30 international business experts that we regularly convene from our region with fluency in 17 languages and cross-industry experience in 35 countries,” said CCEDC Chief Operating Officer Michael Grigalonis. “Our goal was to quickly identify and conduct due diligence on overseas suppliers, as well as facilitate transactions to get these products from China to Chester County.”

Grigalonis said that while CCEDC received numerous offers to source masks, they found many suppliers were unable to deliver the promised quantity and quality of products.

Chester Springs resident James Zhang proved to be the exception.

Zhang, the president of the Sino-American Business and Travel Association, regularly conducts business in China and has developed a reputation as a trusted resource. Working with his contacts in China, Zhang agreed to receive the masks from a vetted supplier and manage delivery to Chester County for purchase, with his services uncompensated.

“Mr. Zhang remained dedicated to assisting us as a public service, even as we far exceeded our initial requests for supplies. We are greatly appreciative of his contributions at a time when such supplies are at critically low levels for first responders and other health care workers on the front lines of this pandemic,” says Gary W. Smith, CCEDC President and CEO.

“Chester County has long been home to many companies that conduct business internationally, and we’ve been pleased over the years to work with the Chester County Economic Development Council to develop relationships in China that bring lasting benefits to our local businesses and residents,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz. “We could not have predicted that those carefully cultivated relationships would result in this incredible outcome.

 “It has not solved the problem, but it has certainly filled an immediate needs gap. In the meantime, we continue to work with state and federal government to increase medical supplies for the health care workers who are putting their lives on the line to serve Chester County residents.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].