Jack Ma, the co-founder and former executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, announced he would donate 500,000 COVID-19 testing kits and one million masks to the United States.
When Donald Trump ran for president, he said that he alone could fix the problems plaguing the United States. Now, as the unfolding coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the U.S., killing Americans, threatening the economy, and overwhelming the public health system, a Chinese billionaire is stepping in to donate desperately needed testing kits and masks.
Jack Ma, the co-founder and former executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, announced Thursday evening he would donate 500,000 COVID-19 testing kits and one million masks to the United States.
The donations will be made by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation, and comes after they made similar efforts to help Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Spain.
“Drawing from my own country’s experience, speedy and accurate testing and adequate personal protective equipment for medical professionals are most effective in preventing the spread of the virus,” Ma said in his statement. “We hope that our donation can help Americans fight against this pandemic.”
Ma’s donation of 500,000 testing kits will undoubtedly help a nation where fewer than 14,000 specimens have been tested for the virus since January, according to the latest official estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of actual people tested may be even lower. The Atlantic estimates that only about 8,000 Americans have been tested, while several members of Congress told Politico on Thursday that fewer than 10,000 people had been tested in the U.S., a nation of 327 million people. Meanwhile, South Korea, a country of only 51 million people, is testing 10,000 people a day and as a result, has been able largely contain the virus.
The Trump administration’s failure to provide widespread coronavirus tests has become a national scandal, with doctors, experts, and patients repeatedly sounding the alarm over the shortage of tests and the consequences that could have when it comes to addressing the COVID-19 disease.
“I think that we could have probably controlled this, if we had effective testing,” Angela Rasmussen, a Columbia University virologist, told Vox.
Instead, it is nearly impossible to obtain a test, which has allowed the virus to spread across the U.S., infecting at least 1,700 Americans and killing 41 so far. But again, the real numbers are likely much higher. Without widespread testing, experts say, we are largely in the dark and have no idea how many people the virus has actually infected.
How bad could things get? According to the CDC’s worst-case estimates, as many as 214 million Americans could become infected and as many as 1.7 million could die.
As fears over the outbreak have grown, thousands of Americans have effectively self-quarantined themselves to try and limit its spread. The pandemic has also caused job layoffs, several stock market crashes, and has prompted the cancellation of numerous sporting and cultural events, including NCAA March Madness.
At various moments, Trump has tried to blame the testing shortage and ensuing coronavirus panic on former President Obama, the media, and the CDC, but as NPR reported Thursday, the responsibility appears to lie directly with him.
Trump reportedly fought against efforts pushing for more aggressive coronavirus testing in January because he was worried that more testing would reveal more cases, which would hurt his chances to be re-elected in November.
Trump continues to deflect blame and insisted on Thursday that testing “has been going very smooth,” but even members of his own party have begun to acknowledge the administration’s failures.
“They’re ramping up, but they’re still saying it’s two weeks before we can get widespread testing,” Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) told Politico. He also added that the president’s repeated claims that all Americans who want to be tested can get tested was “not accurate.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease scientist, has also called the testing shortage a “failing.”
“The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are doing it — we’re not set up for that,” he said during a congressional hearing on Thursday. “Do I think we should be? Yes. But we’re not.”
After outrage boiled over on Thursday, the Trump administration said Friday it would speed up coronavirus screening, introducing an emergency hotline for private and academic laboratories to help them authorize new tests and process previously deployed ones. The administration also announced new partnerships with companies to set up drive-through testing sites to expand testing availability, and said it would partner with two companies developing tests that can detect the virus within an hour.
Trump is also expected to issue an emergency declaration on Friday, which would free up more federal resources and allow agencies like FEMA to help address the coronavirus outbreak.
Jack Ma’s donation is also likely to provide a huge boost and he made clear that the only way to solve the crisis was for countries to work together.
“The pandemic we face today can no longer be resolved by any individual country. Rather, we need to combat the virus by working hand in hand. At this moment, we can’t beat this virus unless we eliminate boundaries to resources and share our know-how and hard-earned lessons,” Ma said. “United we stand, divided we fall!”
Or in other words, no one alone can fix it.