Taiwan has followed up on its first act of “mask diplomacy” in Georgia with another donation that may be even more critical as the state continues to grapple with a growing load of COVID-19 cases.
A month after delivering 100,000 medical masks to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to great fanfare from local and national legislators growing more skeptical of mainland China, the local Taipei Economic and Cultural Office provided the agency with 10,000 N95 masks.
New Director-General Elliot Yi-lung Wang delivered the shipment personally days after his arrival to lead what amounts to Taiwan’s de facto consulate in the region.
The N95 respirator masks, so called because they block 95 percent of particles that contact the mask, protect the wearer better than standard surgical or cloth masks, which are most effective at keeping germs in rather than shutting them out. N95s are used often in health care settings where workers are at risk of direct and extended exposure to the virus.
The donation came a month after the Knox County govenrment in Tennessee, which sits in the TECO Atlanta office’s territory, honored Taiwanese-origin doctor Peter Tsai, who invented the technology behind the N95 mask and came out of retirement to fight the pandemic.
Taiwan has been lauded globally for its response to COVID-19, and the Trump administration has praised it as a model for how democracies can fight outbreaks without resorting to draconian containment measures.
Amid a growing rift with China, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar plans to visit Taiwan in the coming days to learn how it has kept COVID-19 cases and deaths to just 477 and seven, respectively. Mr. Azar would be the highest-ranking American official to visit the island since 1979, when the U.S. broke off diplomatic relations in favor of the mainland. The move has already drawn opposition from China.
Mr. Wang, the director-general, also met recently with Fulton County Commission Chairman Rob Pitts to discuss an incoming mask donation from Taoyuan, home to Taiwan’s main international airport. Much like Atlanta and Taipei maintain sister-city ties, Fulton County and Taoyuan signed a partnership in 2017 centering on exchanges including airport-area development initiatives between Taoyuan International and Hartsfield-Jackson.
Read Global Atlanta’s recent interview with Director-General Wang: New Taiwan Diplomat Sees Opportunity in U.S.-China Rift