Tech leaders help kick off $50M fundraising campaign for UW Medicine’s COVID-19 work

Alan Boyle
A nurse prepares to screen a patient for coronavirus at a drive-through testing station at UW Medical Center – Northwest. (UW Medicine Photo / Randy Carnell)

The CEOs of Amazon and Microsoft are among thousands of people contributing to cover the $50 million in private support that the University of Washington School of Medicine expects to need to cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

So far, more than $20 million in contributions to the UW Medicine Emergency Response Fund have come in from about 3,400 donors, UW Medicine said today.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ family foundation is on the donor list, as are Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his wife, Anu. Other early supporters include former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Connie Ballmer, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Susan Brotman, the Neukom Family Foundation, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Wendy Schmidt, Sahsen Ventures co-founder Bryan White and Christine White, former Costco CEO James Sinegal and Janet Sinegal, and the Washington Research Foundation.

“We are deeply grateful for the generous support and leadership of these caring members of our community who have stepped up in a big way to help us mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in our state,” UW Medicine CEO Paul Ramsey said. “While federal and state funding will relieve some of the costs associated with our COVID-19 healthcare response, private philanthropy is also needed to accelerate actions that must be taken now to save lives in the weeks ahead.”

Among those actions are:

  • An increase in COVID-19 testing capacity: UW Medicine says it has conducted about 70% of all COVID-19 testing in Washington state, and its virology lab expects to ramp up its daily processing rate to 5,000 to 6,000 samples by the end of the week, with results reported within six to 24 hours.
  • Testing and care for unsheltered populations: Some of the contributions, including $2 million from the Allen Family Foundation, support expanded COVID-19 testing and treatment for people at homeless shelters, downtown clinics and community housing sites. In cooperation with King County, UW Medicine is transforming Harborview Hall, an overnight shelter on Seattle’s First Hill, into a quarantine site for homeless patients who are awaiting test results or have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Accelerating COVID-19 research: In cooperation with the Brotman Baty Institute, UW Medicine plays a key role in the Seattle Flu Study, which is partnering with Seattle-King County Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network. UW Medicine also serves as the base for the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which has led the way in modeling projections for the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 35 UW scientists head teams engaged in COVID-19 research.
  • Supporting health care workers: Community members and corporations ranging from Tesla and the Girl Scouts to Grammy-winning artist Lizzo have contributed funds, equipment and food for health care workers on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19. Contributions also support rapid COVID-19 testing for health care workers and first responders, temporary housing, wellness programs and mental health support.
  • Increasing capacity to treat COVID-19 patients: UW Medicine has already gone into surge mode for a potential wave of patients with respiratory illness. The preparations include setting up triage tents outside UW’s hospitals, and modifying interior spaces for in-patient treatment of COVID-19 symptoms while preserving separate resources for patients with other critical injuries or illnesses.

The UW Medicine fund drive is just one of the ways in which tech leaders have responded to COVID-19 in the Seattle area, which was the earliest hotspot for the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed $100 million early on, and is supporting initiatives including the Seattle Flu Study and SCAN as well as the $125 million COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.

Last week, Bezos announced a $100 million contribution to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which supports a network of more than 200 food banks across the country.

Amazon and Microsoft are also partnering with other Seattle-area companies, government agencies and non-profit groups (including Vulcan Inc. and the Allen Family Foundation) to support the Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which has partnered with UW Medicine in COVID-19 projects including the Seattle Flu Study and SCAN, is in the midst of its own coronavirus research fund drive.

For more information about the UW Medicine Emergency Response Fund visit www.AccelerateMed.org/COVID19-Support. To make an online or in-kind donation or to leave a message of support for UW Medicine’s health care workers visit www.AccelerateMed.org/Heroes. Learn more about how the University of Washington community is coming together to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic: https://washington.edu/together.

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