The donation was made by H.E. Ambassador Abraham Wen-Shang Chu on behalf of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles, and was presented to the county’s Board of Supervisors prior to their weekly meeting in Santa Ana.
“Businesses just started opening up, and especially doctor’s offices and dental offices—they really need masks. So this is just perfect timing,” Board Chairwoman Michelle Steel told The Epoch Times.
The ceremony took place while protests raged outside, both against and in favor of the required use of face coverings.
Members of the Orange County Labor Federation, and other county unions made up of business and religious leaders, turned out to encourage the Board to reinstate the mandate requiring face coverings to protect their workers. Roughly 100 others showed up to protest the ongoing use of masks.
The mandated countywide use of face coverings had resulted in previous protestations at Board meetings—some vocal and intimidating—resulting in the June 9 resignation of the county’s chief health officer, Dr. Nichole Quick.
Quick’s temporary successor, Dr. Clayton Chau, announced on June 11 that masks are still strongly recommended, but no longer mandatory.
A Grateful County
While the protests brewed outside, Ambassador Chu presented the masks on behalf of the Taiwanese government to the Board, including Chairwoman Steel and Supervisors Don Wagner, Lisa Bartlett, and Doug Chaffee.
Chu told The Epoch Times the masks were 100 percent made in Taiwan, with volunteer help from the country’s military. “It’s three layers, and the middle layer is actually very important—you can keep the fresh air in and the virus out,” Chu said.
“The personal protective equipment is so key to our hospitals and our skilled nursing facilities and our first responders to keep everyone safe,” Bartlett said during the presentation.
“Taiwan is a great friend of the United States and a great friend to Orange County, so we thank you so very much for this kind and generous contribution,” said Wagner.
Steel said the county will use the donations “for hospitals, vulnerable communities, and private doctor’s offices and dentists.”
She told The Epoch Times that wearing a mask “should not be mandatory” but should be recommended.
“Wear masks for your own protection,” she said. “When you’re sick, stay home.”
After the donation ceremony, the Board began their weekly meeting—but after repeated interruptions regarding the mask issue, they closed the session to the public.
Both Wagner and Steel opposed Quick’s mandate to wear masks, and have encouraged those that supported their view. However, Steel said she did not support the threats made to Quick.
“Every doctor has different opinions, but you know what? She was threatened. That’s not good. And she has children,” Steel said.
Quick resigned unexpectedly after she received death threats from agitated residents and protests in front of her home.
Steel said she doesn’t wear a mask unless mandated by an establishment. She believes each resident should have the option to decide whether or not to wear one, and private businesses should have full discretion whether they enforce mask wearing.
Outside, many protesters agreed with her position. “The masks are bad for you,” one protester, who identified himself only as Troy, told The Epoch Times. Another shouted “Quarantine yourself!” into a megaphone repeatedly.
One man sat away from the groups, reading off the names of people who have died from COVID-19 into a bullhorn.
Representatives for the Orange County Labor Federation, which represents about 90 local unions, said that since the session was closed, they would return again to voice their opinions.
Federation spokesman Luis Aleman told The Epoch Times, “We’re saying let’s put safety first and put politics aside. For us it’s not a partisan issue, it’s a public health issue.”
Union leaders are concerned that a spike in cases will lead to another state-ordered shutdown, which could affect their jobs as well as the health of their members, Aleman said.
The Orange County Health Care Agency on June 16 reported that 10 more people had succumbed to COVID-19, raising the cumulative death toll to 243.
Since June 5, 69 people have died from the disease in the county. The agency also reported 205 new cases, raising the cumulative total to 9,197.
Chu said Taiwan has been able to donate so many masks because the country “prepared in advance” as soon as reports from China started trickling out last November.
After 70 years, Taiwan knows “so many things about China, especially communists,” he said, adding that when the Chinese government announces something “we just think the opposite way,” because there’s so much “misinformation.”
Taiwan has donated hundreds of thousands of masks to states including Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, and Virginia, in an effort to combat COVID-19.
City News Service contributed to this story.