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Bloomberg, Gates foundations announce initiatives to help coronavirus response

The billionaires are turning their attention to stopping COVID-19.

Bloomberg, Gates foundations announce initiatives to help coronavirus response
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore, Alex Wong/Getty Images]

Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have each recently announced initiatives to help with the response to coronavirus as more cases of COVID-19 are confirmed across the United States.

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Bloomberg Philanthropies, in partnership with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, has launched a new program to support American mayors as they respond to the coronavirus outbreak. Michael Bloomberg made the announcement Tuesday morning at the National League of Cities 2020 Congressional City Conference in Washington, DC.

“Local leadership and public health are at the very center of the coronavirus crisis,” the former three-term mayor of New York City said at the conference. “There’s an enormous gap between the help the federal government is providing and the help local government needs. . . . I’m glad to announce I will expand our work with local leaders to help all of you address the coronavirus crisis in your communities head on.” There are three goals to this initiative, he added: decreasing the spread of the disease, helping those who contract it recover, and protecting the economic and social well-being of local communities.

Called the Coronavirus Local Response Initiative, the Bloomberg Philanthropies effort will document the lessons learned from cities like Seattle that are experiencing a coronavirus outbreak, share those lessons with other cities to get ahead of the virus’s spread, help provide mayors with the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 from the CDC, and include virtual programming for mayors from Harvard Kennedy School and Business School experts, focused on crisis leadership and crisis communications. Bloomberg did not say how much money would be earmarked for this venture.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced on Monday the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, a partnership with Wellcome, a health research nonprofit, and Mastercard that hopes to develop and make widely available COVID-19 medications. Supported by $125 million, both from new funding and money already set aside to target the coronavirus outbreak, the accelerator will help identify potential treatments for COVID-19, fast-track their development, and prepare for the manufacture of millions of doses of treatment to be used worldwide.

“The only way to treat a viral infection, such as COVID-19, is with antiviral drugs. Right now, we can only treat the symptoms since there simply aren’t antiviral medications that can treat a range of conditions in the same way that antibiotics do for bacterial infections,” Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, wrote in an announcement. “This is where we believe we can help by partnering with private and philanthropic enterprises to lower the financial risk and technical barriers for biotech and pharmaceutical companies developing antivirals for COVID-19.”

The Gates Foundation already announced a project that could soon roll out at-home COVID-19 test kits to the Seattle Area. The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator go even further, focused on coronavirus drugs that can be mass-produced quickly and delivered worldwide.

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