Working with Chester County government officials, the Chester County Economic Development Council is attaining 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.
“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 Commissioner Marian Moskowitz. “We could not have predicted that those carefully cultivated relationships would result in this incredible outcome.”
CCEDC was first approached by Chester County government officials to assist in vetting and securing 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 healthcare 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 says 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. As president of the Sino-American Business and Travel Association, he 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,” said Gary W. Smith, the CCEDC’s President and CEO. “We are greatly appreciative of his contributions at a time when such supplies are at critically low levels for first responders and other healthcare workers on the front lines of this pandemic.”
So far, Chester 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 and its Global Business Advisors did such a good job of finding quality PPE at a fair price, that we are able to assist our neighboring counties as well,” said Chester County Department of Emergency Services Director Mike Murphy.
Chester County is beginning to fulfill requests from Delaware County and Berks County, which both counties will reimburse.
Recipients of the face masks are first responders, as well as healthcare 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.
“It has not solved the problem, but it has certainly filled an immediate needs gap,” said Moskowitz. “In the meantime, we continue to work with state and federal government to increase medical supplies for the healthcare workers who are putting their lives on the line to serve Chester County residents.”