A group of Chinese American business leaders has donated 1 million surgical masks to first-responders and others in Chicago, saying Chicagoans did the same thing for China when the coronavirus emerged there at the beginning of the year.
“We are grateful to the frontline responders who are risking their well-being to protect Chicago neighborhoods,” said Citadel Securities CEO Peng Zhao, who organized the donation with his wife Cherry Chen.
The effort follows months of President Donald Trump blaming China for the pandemic.
On Monday, when a Chinese American reporter asked the president why he sees testing for the coronavirus as a “global competition,” he responded, “Maybe that’s a question you should ask China.” On Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “Asian Americans are VERY angry at what China has done to our Country, and the World. Chinese Americans are the most angry of all.”
Zhao and more than a dozen other Chinese American business leaders bought the masks and asked the University of Chicago Crime Lab to help distribute them.
About 750,000 of the masks are going to the Chicago Department of Public Health, which will provide them to Chicago police officers and other city workers who need them, according to the crime lab. More than 500 officers have tested positive for COVID-19, and three have died.
About 100,000 masks will go to the Chicago Public Schools. Masks also are being given to nonprofits that work with at-risk youth.
The distribution of the masks began May 4.
Roseanna Ander, executive director of the crime lab, said the donation comes at a time China is under fire by Trump and others and said, “We all have a common enemy in COVID-19 and a shared interest in stopping its spread, protecting our brave frontline responders and ultimately finding a vaccine.”
Ken Griffin, founder of Citadel and Chicago’s richest man, is paying for cleaning supplies and medical equipment for cops and other first-responders. He also donated $2.5 million to feed Chicago schoolchildren during the pandemic. In early February, he and his companies contributed $7.5 million to help China’s Hubei province, where the pandemic began.