LOCAL COVID-19 RESPONSE
“Seattle is not just our headquarters, it’s our home. And as a local organization with relevant expertise and resources, we have a unique responsibility to help.” – CEO Mark Suzman
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided over $5 million to local response efforts in Washington state, with additional technical assistance and support from current and former employees, on top of our regular investments in education, housing and homelessness, and strengthening the nonprofit sector. Globally and locally, our COVID-19 response efforts are in four categories: accelerate detection and suppression; protect the most vulnerable; mitigate social and economic impact; and develop products for a sustained response.
Accelerate detection & suppression
- Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN): We leveraged the Seattle Flu Study (now SCAN, funded in part by Bill’s private office), which pivoted their resources early to improve epidemiological surveillance of COVID-19, providing free in-home tests to better understand how the virus spreads so we can better protect our community.
- Public Health Seattle-King County & Yakima Health Division: We worked with county health departments on disease modeling and technical support to improve case and contact identification, manage care coordination, disseminate timely and accurate information, and address the needs of people experiencing homelessness, migrant farmworkers, and communities disproportionately impacted.
- Washington State Department of Health: We supported state public health efforts on assessing and improving practices at long-term care facilities and skilled nursing facilities, tracking public opinion and behavior change, improving strategies for testing and contact tracing, using disease modeling to plan for when to implement and relax physical distancing and community mitigation measures, improving strategies on communications and equitable outreach, and building partnerships to encourage long-term behavior change for community protection.
- City of Seattle: We helped coordinate timely and accurate information sharing between the city and county governments, particularly around disease-prevention, and isolation and quarantine options for people experiencing homelessness, both sheltered and unsheltered.
Protect the most vulnerable
- Homeless Services: People experiencing homelessness are vulnerable to COVID-19 because of crowded shelters, lack of access to hygiene and sanitation, and underlying health conditions. To address these needs, we granted $160,000 each to three major homeless service providers in Seattle, and provided technical assistance to public health departments on setting up places where people experiencing homelessness can go for hygiene, quarantine, care, and recovery.
- Community Response Funds Statewide: To help meet the needs of those disproportionately impacted by the health and economic effects of COVID-19, including Black, Latinx, Indigenous, immigrant and refugee, and other low-income communities and communities of color, we provided grants to community foundation response funds for distribution to those who need it most. Our grants included $1 million to the All in WA general fund, $1 million to the Seattle Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund with an additional $500,000 from Pivotal Ventures (Melinda Gates’ personal office), and $250,000 each to community foundations in Snohomish, Pierce, Yakima, and Spokane counties, and to Philanthropy Northwest to leverage the reach of the Census Equity Fund.
- Guardianship: We catalyzed a guardianship infrastructure that allows hospitals to discharge people who are healthy enough to leave but are indigent and lacking legal guardians or any place to go. The program helps free up hospital beds so they can be used for those most in need.
Mitigate Social & Economic Impact
- Challenge Seattle: Former Governor Gregoire’s alliance of employers, which includes the Gates Foundation, provided a trusted venue to share information with the business community, including opportunities for collaboration and extra support on public health challenges, economic analysis, and efforts to protect the most vulnerable. These regular calls and briefings led to a more coordinated business, government and philanthropic response. (Highlighted in the May edition of Fortune Magazine.)
- Collaboration & Connections: One of the Gates Foundation’s most valuable assets is our ability to bring people together. By collaborating and sharing information with our partners and colleagues across government (city, county, state), corporate philanthropy, locally-based private and community philanthropies, research universities, health data organizations, and our community-based nonprofit partners, we are better able to assess gaps, make connections, and coordinate responses.
- Public Education: We are supporting educators by developing, curating and sharing tools and practices for remote learning, helping districts implement those practices, and ensuring that educators can collect and use the data they need. We’re also staying focused on the social emotional needs of students, teachers and families, exploring how to ensure well-being, belonging and connectedness across in-person, hybrid, and remote learning settings.
Develop Products for a Sustained Response
- Diagnostics, Therapeutics & Vaccines: Working globally with governments, the private sector, and multilateral institutions, the Gates Foundation is deeply invested in developing affordable and accessible point-of-care diagnostics, as well as treatments and vaccines that can be quickly scaled once proven safe and effective. (Global Health investments that will benefit the US.)
For more information about our COVID-19 response efforts, please visit https://www.gatesfoundation.