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Surprise Care Package from Hong Kong

World Map and Mask

AN ALBANY LAW  SCHOOL GRADUATE WHO LIVES IN HONG KONG has been  supplying the law school with protective gear—and vows to continue as long as necessary.

When the novel coronavirus struck New York State, Vincent Lai ’86, completely unprompted, sent the school six boxes of disposable masks and two boxes of gloves. Due to delays in international shipping, the surprise care package arrived at Albany Law School long after the school transitioned to remote learning for the spring and summer.

Now students, faculty, and staff are back on campus—and Lai is sending more masks. In late June he mailed another 400 individually wrapped, disposable face coverings.

“I saw Albany Law sent out their new protocol, ‘If you don’t have a mask we will provide one.’ And these are individually wrapped so they are very sanitary,” he said.

He has been checking in with the school. If disposable face coverings become in short supply—as was the case in the spring—he plans to keep sending them.

Lai noted that Hong Kong is about the same size as New York City, but had far fewer positive cases and deaths. He thinks Hong Kong’s “face mask–wearing culture” made the difference. “We get colds and we put on masks,” said Lai, who moved to Hong Kong more than two decades ago and is now chief administrative officer and company secretary at Sunwah Kingsway Capital Holdings Limited. “Each family already has a box of masks at home.”

Hong Kong’s experience with SARS in the early 2000s, which had a double-digit case fatality rate, also was a factor. As soon as COVID-19 arrived, Lai said that people began placing a pad at their front doors with a mixture of alcohol and water on a towel to disinfect shoes. They also went back to putting replaceable plastic sheets on elevator buttons, among other safety precautions.

But the main focus was on masks. Lai quickly ran out in January when the virus hit. His family in the United States began mailing him masks. “So after you [in the U.S.] started getting it, I started sending them to you,” he said.

By then, Hong Kong had a tremendous supply. Every drugstore had piles of boxes of masks. “The government gave incentives to set up factories to make masks,” he said. Hong Kong also gave every resident a reusable cloth mask and 10 disposable masks with the phrase, “Together, We Fight the Virus.”

“It’s about protecting people,” he said. “And this is my way of helping protect my friends at Albany Law School.”

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