- As the coronavirus outbreak spreads across the globe, tech billionaires are promising to donate critical medical supplies.
- This weekend saw a flurry in Silicon Valley CEOs promising their companies would donate masks to healthcare workers.
- A spike in demand for masks means shortages are hitting hospitals.
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Tech billionaires are jostling to donate protective masks.
Over the weekend a flurry of tech CEOs including Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Tesla’s Elon Musk promised to deliver millions of masks to healthcare workers working on the front line to fight against the coronavirus.
Panic buying means masks are in short supply even for hospital staff, so much so that the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week that as a last resort healthcare workers should use a bandana or scarf.
The World Health Organisation cautions that members of the public do not need to wear masks unless they are caring for someone who has contracted COVID-19, and warns that they are only effective if put on and removed properly.
Here are the tech billionaires who have promised to donate masks:
Apple — minimum 2 million masks
Apple CEO TIm Cook announced on Saturday that Apple will be donating “millions” of masks to health workers in the US and Europe.
Our teams at Apple have been working to help source supplies for healthcare providers fighting COVID-19. We’re donating millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe. To every one of the heroes on the front lines, we thank you.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) March 21, 2020
In a press meeting on Saturday Vice President Mike Pence said Apple would be donating two million masks to the US.
It’s not clear how many more Apple plans to donate to European healthcare workers.
Facebook — 720,000 with “millions” more on the way
In a Facebook post on Sunday Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook will be donating it had left over from the California wildfires while it works on sourcing “millions more.”
When asked by Business Insider how many millions of masks it is aiming to provide, a Facebook spokesperson said:
“The situation is ever-changing and we all need to be flexible. Our commitment to our community will only get stronger. We are actively looking for new ways to make a difference and we’ll keep you posted.”
Tesla and SpaceX — 250,000 masks and 1,000 ventilators
In an email to CleanTechnica on Saturday Elon Musk said Tesla and SpaceX have 250,000 N95 masks ready to start sending out. “Aiming to start distributing those to hospitals tomorrow night,” Musk added in the email.
Responding to a user on Twitter on Sunday asking for him to send aid to hospitals in Louisiana, Musk seemed to both promise N95 masks and criticise them for being unwieldy.
“We’ll try to get & deliver as many as possible. N95 masks are a pain to wear btw [by the way]. Less onerous masks are better most of the time,” said Musk.
We’ll try to get & deliver as many as possible. N95 masks are a pain to wear btw. Less onerous masks are better most of the time.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 23, 2020
On Sunday a researcher at the University of Washington Medical Centre (UWMC) also received 50,000 masks from Elon Musk, The Seattle Times reports.
Musk has also promised that Tesla and SpaceX will dedicate resources to manufacturing ventilators for hospitals, although Musk has simultaneously shown disbelief that there will be any shortage of the machines.
Musk told CleanTechnica however that the companies: “should have over 1000 ventilators by next week.”
Salesforce — 5 million masks and protective kit
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff tweeted Sunday that Salesforce had already donated 9,000 masks to the University of California Medical Centre, and is working on distributing a total of 5 million masks this week plus extra protective equipment.
Thank you to our Ohana for delivering our first 9000 masks to UCSF. We are working hard across all of our resources & relationships to deliver an additional 5 million masks this week plus additional critical PPE. All of us need to focus on getting PPE to our local hospitals. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/y7mgL0KhrT
— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) March 23, 2020
Jack Ma — 10.2 million masks
Looking farther afield than Silicon Valley, Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma has so far promised masks to 90 countries.
Jack Ma joined Twitter earlier this month to make his first announcement that his charitable organisation would be donating one million masks (alongside 500,000 coronavirus testing kits) to the US.
Since then he has announced that he will be shipping 100,000 masks to every single African country (meaning a total of 5.4 million),
On Saturday he announced 1.8 million masks would be distributed among Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
He then said a further two million would go towards 24 Latin American countries.
Microsoft — 15,000 protection goggles and other equipment
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella outlined the ways his company is teaming up with medical and research organisations to provide software tools in the COVID-19 fight.
Company president Brad Smith also outlined how the firm’s supply chain has been commandeered to provide protective equipment for medical workers. An initial batch of supplies has been delivered to Seattle, where the firm is headquartered.
As businesses mobilize, our global supply chain team is hard at work securing much-needed supplies for healthcare workers. On Fri, the first 5 pallets of PPE arrived, including:
- 15,000 protection goggles
- Infrared thermometers
- Medical caps
- Protective suits pic.twitter.com/b3ShUUSfVI
— Brad Smith (@BradSmi) March 22, 2020
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