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The City of Annapolis has received an unexpected donation during the coronavirus pandemic from a benefactor half a world away.
The municipal government of Changsha, China has donated 40,000 medical-grade face masks to the city, said Kevin Simmons, director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management.
A representative from the Chinese city’s foreign affairs office, Yani Xiao, wrote to City Manager David Jarrell in April stating that they wanted to send a donation of masks in part because of an existing relationship with former Assistant City Manager Bob Agee and other Annapolis residents.
“Because Changsha and Annapolis are friendship cities/twin cities, we should stand firmly with each other and support each other,” Xiao wrote. “Annapolis is not alone in this crisis and we are a community with a shared future for mankind.”
In return for the donation, Mayor Gavin Buckley sent the Chinese officials a book of photographs of Annapolis.
“International friendships like this bridge divides,” Buckley said in a statement. “I’m grateful for the gift of the masks, but I’m even more grateful for what it says about the hopefulness of the human condition.”
The donation has come “in the nick of time,” Simmons said as newly reported cases have begun to trend upward since mid-June after a late spring lull. Maryland has reported about 800 new cases per day since late July, up from a low of about 300 per day in early June. Statewide, nearly 97,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and more than 3,460 have died.
In the Annapolis area, 1,540 people have tested positive, including 388 in the last month, according to county health department data. County officials say Anne Arundel’s metrics are improving after a slight uptick, though people are urged to continue following social distance guidelines and wearing masks.
The masks have been inspected and confirmed to be medical grade, Simmons said. About half of the supply will go to public safety employees, like police officers, and firefighters. The other 20,000 will be distributed based on need.
“It’s a big competition for resources,” he said. “This could ease the burden with these masks.”
One of the boxes is emblazoned with a sticker featuring the Chinese and American flags side-by-side with a message from the Changsha Municipal People’s Government that reads: “Go, City of Annapolis! Best Wishes from Changsha! True unity inspires people to work as one to overcome adversity.”
“Once again we sincerely wish you and everyone in Annapolis continued good health and the fortitude to persevere during this challenging period,” Xiao wrote in April.
Changsha is the capital of central China’s Hunan province and its most populous city. It is home to 4.6 million people, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Changsha’s history dates back at least 3,000 years when it was was the capital of the Changsha Kingdom in the Han dynasty from 206 BC to 220 AD.
Hunan shares its northern border with the Hubei province, whose capital Wuhan is where the novel coronavirus is said to have originated. Just over 1,000 cases and four deaths were confirmed in Hunan, according to the World Health Organization.
The donation was facilitated by a logistics company, Global Logistical Connections, Inc., which arrived at JFK Airport in New York City last month and went through customs before they were delivered to Annapolis, said Alejandra Vado, an import specialist with the logistics company.
Early in the pandemic, Gov. Larry Hogan purchased 500,000 coronavirus testing kits from South Korea. State officials went to great lengths to avoid the possibility of the federal government seizing or delaying the shipment, the Hogan administration has said.
The mask shipment was not subject to a customs hold, Vado said.