Amazon and Microsoft kick $1 million each toward Seattle-based fund for coronavirus response as Washington state suffers 19 deaths from virus
Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images; Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED25
- Amazon and Microsoft are each donating $1 million to a fund for Seattle-area rapid response to the coronavirus outbreak.
- The COVID-19 Response Fund will dole out one-time grants to local nonprofits working with "disproportionately affected communities" that will be the most economically impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.
- Both Amazon and Microsoft are based in Washington, where 19 people have died and nearly 150 have tested positive for coronavirus.
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Microsoft and Amazon, two major Seattle-based tech companies, are giving $1 million each to a fund designed to mitigate the economic loss felt in the local area in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
The COVID-19 Response Fund launched Monday with more than $2.5 million in donations, which will go to one-time grants doled out to local community organizations. The response fund is not designed to fund medical response and health measures: Instead, funds are intended to address the economic impact and support "disproportionately affected communities" in the Seattle metro area.
The effort comes as COVID-19, the coronavirus disease, continues to spread around the world. Globally, more than 100,000 cases have been reported, and nearly 4,000 people have died. Of the over 500 cases and 22 deaths reported in the US, nearly 150 cases are in Washington state - including 19 deaths.
The fund says it expects its first round of grants to go out "within the next few weeks," with further grants will be handed out on a rolling basis.
Although questions have been raised over the US response and the availability of coronavirus test kits, the COVID-19 Response Fund will be dedicated more to dealing with the effect the coronavirus will have on the Seattle-area community. The fund says on its website that grants will particularly address the immediate needs of "economically vulnerable populations," such as those without health insurance, gig-economy workers, and people with limited English proficiency.
Amazon and Microsoft have not been immune to the toll coronavirus is already taking on various industries, which have canceled major conferences and changed day-t0-day operations to prevent the spread.
Two Microsoft employees in Washington tested positive in early March for the illness, and are now under quarantine. While one employee is a remote LinkedIn worker in the Seattle area, the other worked at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond Washington, Business Insider previously reported.
Both Microsoft and Amazon have enactied measures to prevent outbreaks among their hundreds of thousands of employees.
Microsoft has asked all Seattle and Bay Area employees whose jobs can be done remotely to work from home until March 25, and Amazon has told workers in Washington - both in Seattle and Bellevue - to work remotely if possible until the end of March. Similar measures have been taken at Silicon Valley staples including Facebook, Twitter, and Google.
Additionally, Microsoft has led a pledge among tech companies - including Amazon - to continue to pay hourly service workers whose jobs may be significantly impacted, if not made impossible, due to the implementation of work-from-home policies. These employees may include custodians and janitors, kitchen staff, security guards, and transportation drivers. Amazon has also vowed not to penalize warehouse employees who take unpaid time off due to the coronavirus outbreak.
King County, where Amazon and Microsoft are headquartered, has been hit the hardest of anywhere in the US. There have been 83 cases reported in the county alone. There have also been 17 deaths there, with 14 of them associated with a local senior living facility.
Bill Gates, the billionaire cofounder of Microsoft, has also taken steps to fight coronavirus through his philanthropic organization. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been funding a project to provide home-testing coronavirus test kits in Washington, although the kits are not yet available. The foundation also pledged to provide "up to $100 million" in coronavirus treatment and detection efforts.
Outside of the Seattle Area, some multi-million dollar companies have started to pledge money to coronavirus efforts. Microsoft made a nearly $150,000 donation to relief efforts in the most hard-hit areas of China.
As coronavirus continues to spread, a vaccine for the illness is likely still months or years away: It took 20 months to find a SARS vaccine in the early '00s, and six months for a Zika vaccine in 2015. Scientists and companies around the world are racing against the rising numbers and each other to find a vaccine.
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