Less than two weeks after withdrawing from the presidential race, Mike Bloomberg announced Tuesday that his Bloomberg Philanthropies is launching what it’s calling the Coronavirus Global Response Initiative, a $40 million plan to combat the spread of the coronavirus in vulnerable low and middle-income countries.
Bloomberg tweeted that the new initiative will particularly focus on Africa, which has 417 confirmed COVID-19 cases and seven deaths across the continent as of March 17.
The new plan comes just days after the three-term New York City mayor announced the Coronavirus Local Response Initiative, which will mobilize mayors across the U.S. to fight the pandemic and keep their cities safe by providing them with virtual technical assistance, coaching, and accurate information. The first virtual meeting will take place on March 19, where more than 180 cities are expected to join experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.
“I know from my experience as mayor of New York City that giving public health professionals the tools to protect the public is vital to saving lives,” said Bloomberg in a statement, “and to help mitigate the kind of economic and social damage that could make this crisis even more debilitating for families and communities.”
The international initiative, which will work alongside The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s response to the virus in developing countries, will fund rapid response teams that will prevent and detect infections, train healthcare workers on the ground to control infections, develop lab networks to manage and transport specimens to central laboratories for diagnosis; measure acceptance and impact of containment strategies, provide communications support such as public education campaigns and provide technical expertise to global and regional health organizations.
Bloomberg’s tenure as the Mayor of New York City included fighting outbreaks in the U.S. such as the swine flu in 2009, which infected 60.8 million people and the outbreak of West Nile virus in 2012, which infected 5,674 people.
In a March 1 television ad for his campaign, Bloomberg addressed the country’s lack of preparedness for the then-epidemic, stating that “at times like this, it’s the job of the President to reassure the public that he or she is taking all the necessary steps to protect the health and well-being of every citizen.” He went on, “They want him or her to prepare for events like these in advance with teams of experts.”
Since then, the World Health Organization has declared the virus a global pandemic that has infected 196,000 people around the world and killed nearly 7,900. In its statement, Bloomberg Philanthropies will partner with Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and currently president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of global health organization Vital Strategies, along with the World Health Organization (WHO) to mitigate the virus.
“We have a window of time to partner with Ministries of Health in sub-Saharan Africa to protect their population from a disease that could kill through both infections and disruption of health services,” said Frieden.
Forbes estimates that Bloomberg, who is currently worth $45 billion and is the fourth biggest philanthropist in America has given away billions of dollars in recent years with a focus on climate change and global public health initiatives, including a $1.8 billion pledge to Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. Bloomberg Philanthropies says it distributed at least $3.3 billion last year.