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SEATTLE March 4, 2020 – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced today that it will commit an additional $5 million to help public health agencies in the greater Seattle region enhance their capacity to detect novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in King County, Snohomish County and other surrounding communities.
“Early detection plays an essential role in helping public health authorities identify and treat people with COVID-19, take steps to safely isolate them and reduce transmission within the community,” said Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman. “The Gates Foundation deeply appreciates the efforts that local, state, and federal public health authorities have invested in responding to this outbreak, and we are eager to contribute our knowledge and resources to the effort.”
The foundation will work in coordination with Public Health-Seattle & King County, the Washington State Department of Health, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help them enhance their capacity to detect and treat COVID-19 and guide public health efforts to reduce transmission. Part of this effort will explore how the resources of the Seattle Flu Study could be pivoted toward emergency efforts to monitor and respond to COVID-19.
Originally designed to create a community-wide network to detect infectious disease outbreaks, the Seattle Flu Study explores innovative ways to track the spread of viruses across a large urban area using methods including rapid virus genetic sequencing and mapping chains of transmission.
The study is led by the Brotman Baty Institute, in collaboration with UW Medicine, The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Seattle Children’s. It was launched in 2018 and has received more than $20 million in funding support from Gates Ventures (the private office of Bill Gates). It operates with technical guidance from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and local and national public health authorities.
On February 5, the foundation committed up to $100 million to the global effort to respond to COVID-19. This included up to $20 million to accelerate international efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, up to $20 million to help partners in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia strengthen their response efforts, and up to $60 million to kick-start the development of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. Today’s $5 million commitment represents funding in addition to the original $100 million commitment.
“The COVID-19 epidemic reminds us that infectious disease respects no boundaries, and no community is immune to the threat of a global pandemic,” said Suzman. “We can, however, take steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Seattle and around the world, and we are ready to support these efforts here in our home community.”
Visit The Optimist for additional information and Gates Foundation perspectives on the response to COVID-19.
About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Mark Suzman and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.