Port Townsend, Washington – home to US-China Education Trust Advisory Council Member Dr. Robert (Bob) Kapp, like much of America, was not well-prepared to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to his friend of many years, another USCET Advisory Council member Changan Tien and the latter’s generosity, Port Townsend’s only hospital – Jefferson Healthcare (JHC) became better equipped to fight COVID-19.
The first US COVID case had appeared, in suburban Seattle, not seventy miles from Port Townsend on January, 20, 2020. Bob, former president of the US-China Business Council and an academic specialist in modern Chinese history, returned home to Port Townsend on January 31st after a quick trip to Hong Kong, where the pandemic emergency had shut down the city. Everything seemed to be closed and everyone masked or remaining at home. Bob, however, found the situation at home quite different.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks and gowns had disappeared from brick-and-mortar retail stores and quickly sold out online. The US federal government was slow to react as thousands of small American towns, like Port Townsend and the healthcare facilities which served them, faced new threats.
Bob went into action. He turned to his old friend, Changan Tien, who represented first Ford, and then Fedex, in China, when Bob was at the Business Council. Bob wrote and asked Changan whether he had a line on any masks. Back came Changan’s quick reply, “I can get you a thousand masks.”
And so he did. How Changan managed to find and secure those precious masks and to arrange for their shipment – in four separate boxes of 250 each, as required by some obscure regulation; and how those Fedex shipments finally managed to clear customs and make their way from Beijing to Port Townsend is too long a story to be told here. Bob anxiously followed the Fedex messages: date of delivery set, date of delivery re-set, date of delivery un-set, shipment sent to Incheon, where it was sent back to China, then sent out of Beijing again with some boxes checked through Anchorage, until they were finally delivered to Bob’s front porch.
When Changan refused to accept any payment or compensation, Bob offered to make a contribution to a charity or NGO of Changan’s choosing, but he said it was up to Bob to choose. And so, Bob decided to make a donation to USCET as a token of thanks to recognize Changan’s generous humanitarian gesture.
The real thanks would come from Mike Glenn, CEO of Jefferson Healthcare, who asked Bob to “Pass along our highest gratitude and appreciation” for the donation of the 1000 KN95 masks. Not only did the donation come at a time of great fear, but the assurance of having masks for the hospital staff made the looming crisis hanging over JHC in the early months of the pandemic less ominous and the weeks just ahead less threatening.
USCET adds our thanks to both our Advisory Council members, two of our closest and most valued supporters, for setting an example for both Chinese and Americans that cooperation and mutual support are the best ways to stop the COVID-19 pandemic and save the world.