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Geographical Sciences’ China Connection to Help Protect Health Care, Emergency Workers

Chinese Alums, Former Faculty Donate 17K Masks, Protective Gear to Fight Pandemic in Prince George’s County

By Liam Farrell

Masks

Mask image by Marc Tran/Stocksy; photo courtesy of contributing alumni and colleagues from Geographical Sciences

A group of Chinese scholars who graduated from, visited or worked in the Department of Geographical Sciences (below) donated more than 17,000 surgical masks through UMD to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, with the hard-to-find protective gear passed on to the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department and Prince George’s County hospitals.

Strong ties between the University of Maryland and scholars in China will now be visible on the faces of local hospital, fire and emergency workers.

A group of Chinese scholars who graduated from, visited or worked in the Department of Geographical Sciences donated this week more than 17,000 surgical masks through the university to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, with the hard-to-find protective gear passed on to the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department and Prince George’s County hospitals.

In a letter to department Chair Chris Justice, former UMD adjunct professor Tao He, now at Wuhan University, wrote that after the novel coronavirus outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, “many people at UMD gave gracious greetings and some provided medical supplies to help us go through hard times, which we really appreciated.”

“Our experiences at UMD Geography have greatly benefited our personal and institutional academic and engineering research development,” he wrote on behalf of his colleagues. “We want to take this opportunity to express our appreciation.”

Geographical Sciences alumni and colleaguesWith frontline health care workers rapidly depleting stocks of personal protective equipment while treating patients with COVID-19, academic and research institutions around the world are scrounging for supplies to donate. UMD has made a strong contribution itself, sending a stockpile of 12,000 N95 respirators and 12,000 surgical masks to the University of Maryland Medical System. Campus labs from bioengineering and biology to physics and animal sciences have donated thousands of more pairs of gloves and surgical masks along with hundreds of lab coats, shoe covers, hair covers and even ethanol.

Geographical sciences Professor Shunlin Liang helped coordinate the delivery of the surgical masks—which may help prevent infected people from making others sick, according to new UMD research—from an informal group of about 40 Chinese residents who work at institutions such as Wuhan University, Beijing Normal University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Peking University. The department has numerous long-term collaborations with Chinese universities and research institutes, and annually hosts many Chinese students and visitors.

“We have constant communications,” Liang said. “They wanted to do something.”

Justice, the department chair, called the gift “a touching example of our strong and continued international academic relationships with China in these globally challenging times.”

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