Leaders at Comcast and Facebook have pledged $30 million to initiatives that aim to help ease the coronavirus crisis.
The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, the health-focused philanthropic entity headed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, have donated $25 million to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help explore treatment options for the fast-spreading COVID-19 virus.
The Roberts family, which controls Comcast, has donated $5 million to help students in Philadelphia get laptops needed for online instruction now that schools across the country have shuttered. Comcast chairman-CEO Brian Roberts and his wife, Aileen Roberts, made the donation to the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia.
Zuckerberg and Chan disclosed their $25 million contribution in an interview Friday with Gayle King for “CBS This Morning.”
“I’m really proud to share that CZI’s going to be joining Gates and others to put together something they’re calling the therapeutics accelerator to fight coronavirus. They’re going to fund a group to screen all of the drugs that we know have potential effects against coronavirus. Figuring out drugs is always expensive, but philanthropy can be a role in kickstarting this,” said Chan.
Zuckerberg described how the process will work, saying that testing existing “safe” drugs will be key to examining which may be compatible with curbing the symptoms of the novel illness.
“Part of the idea is that often a drug can be helpful against multiple diseases, so you can basically take all of those drugs that have already been screened as safe and test them to see if they might also have a positive impact for either preventing the coronavirus or reducing the symptoms and making it less damaging.” said Zuckerberg.
Chan continued to emotionally praise those on the frontlines — in hospitals, grocery stores, and mail delivery services — who are putting themselves at risk for the sake of their communities, also commending the scientists who are working on a cure.
“There are so many people working together on this and I think there are so many people who are reaching out and caring for each other in a way that is beautiful and there’s already people who have lost their lives and are putting so much into this.”
Meanwhile, the Roberts family said their donation was prompted by reports that some Philadelphia-area students didn’t have the equipment needed to take part in online classes.
“We’re living in an unprecedented time and COVID-19 is presenting our society with new challenges every day,” Aileen and Brian Roberts said in a statement. “When we heard that many Philadelphia students weren’t going to be able to learn from home without laptops, we quickly decided we wanted to help and provide these teachers, parents and students with the technology they need to begin learning online within just a few weeks. In good times or bad, now all of our Philadelphia students will have access to technology to help them succeed.”
The 50,000 new laptops will be distributed between April 13 and 17 and will be set with learning capabilities as well as training for the Philadelphia teachers. Comcast is also providing two free months of Internet service to low-income families through its Internet Essentials service.
“The generous gift from Aileen and Brian Roberts and their family will help to transform the learning experience for thousands of Philadelphia’s public school students who will now be able to access online educational resources from home,” said Philadelphia superintendent William R. Hite Jr. “Our public schools belong to all of us and this is a great example of what’s possible when we work together to improve educational supports for all of our young people. I am grateful for their generosity,” said Philadelphia schools superintendent William R. Hite Jr.
(Pictured: Aileen and Brian Roberts, far left, with William Hite Jr. and other Philadelphia school officials in 2017)