In late December 2019 people in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China began to get sick with a type of pneumonia that had not been seen before, marking the beginning of a new infectious disease. This was later discovered to be a new type of coronavirus, a class of virus, that cause a wide variety of illnesses in mammals and birds. Respiratory infections are the most common type of infections caused by coronaviruses in humans. Coronaviruses are responsible for illnesses ranging in severity from the common cold through MERS and SARS in humans.
On March 11, Dr. Tedros, the Director-General of the WHO, declared the outbreak a pandemic. In his remarks at a press briefing on March 18, he emphasized that every person who is showing symptoms should be tested, however a lack of kits means this is not happening within the U.S. and in some other countries.
CDP and its partners at Candid are tracking philanthropic donations to this outbreak. As of March 17, the total donations received stood at more than $1.7 billion. Read more about who is contributing here and learn more about how this compares to other disasters in this blog.
March 18, 2020: Worldwide cases top 200,000, only 12 days after it reached 100,000.
March 18, 2020: Death toll surpasses 8,000.
March 18, 2020: U.S. cases surpass 7,000, but undertesting remains an issue and this is definitely an undercount.
March 3, 2020: International philanthropic giving exceeds $1 billion.
Feb. 29, 2020: First U.S. death – a man in his 50s – occurs in Kirkland, Wash., just outside of Seattle. The cluster associated with the nursing home as of March 14 includes nearly 50 staff testing positive and the deaths of nearly 30 patients. This is the largest U.S. cluster.
As of noon central time on March 18, there have been 207,518 confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world according to Johns Hopkins University, an increase of almost 17,000 cases since Tuesday. Confimed cases have been reported in 157 countries and regions across six continents. Italy has the second highest number of cases at 31,506, more than 4,000 more cases than yesterday. They report that 2,941 people have recovered and 2,503 have died (about 350 since Tuesday). Iran has the next highest number of cases at 17,361. They report that 5,389 people have recovered and there have been 1,135 deaths. Spain is the country with the fourth highest number of cases; currently 13,910 people have been infected, 1,081 have recovered and 623 have died. In South Korea, cases have continued to slow down and it currently is sixth, between Germany and France, in terms of the number of cases.
There are now 7,324 cases in the U.S. – over 2,100 more cases than Tuesday – keeping it at the eighth highest country. This number does not include the 46 people who tested positive from the Diamond Princess cruise ship or three Americans that were repatriated from Wuhan and tested positive. There have been 115 deaths in 18 states (23 more than yesterday). It is unknown how many people have recovered (it was 17 yesterday). Given the problems with testing within the U.S., it is likely that this is an underreporting of both the number of cases and the number of those who have recovered. To be deemed “recovered” two negative tests have to be received. Testing and processing delays mean that this is not happening. Currently all states have cases, with West Virginia – the lone holdout for weeks – diagnosing its first case on March 17. Over the weekend new travel bans were imposed nationally. and many cities and states introduced sweeping facility closures and bans on public gatherings.
While there are more than 150 other countries with cases, the highest number of cases remains in Mainland China where there are 81,102 confirmed cases, just 44 more cases since yesterday. Perhaps one of the clearest signs of recovery is that China has sent workers and medical supplies to Italy to assist with the crisis there. In non-Mainland China countries, there is now a steady increase in the number of cases. On Sunday, March 15, the combined number of cases outside China surpassed the number of cases inside by 13,000. There are now (as of March 18) more than 126,000 more cases outside China than inside.
As of March 18, there have been 8,249 deaths, 5,008 outside China compared to 3,241 inside Mainland China. This means that over 60 percent of deaths have now occurred outside of Mainland China. More than 82,104 people are reported to have recovered, including 69,775 in Mainland China, which is 86 percent of those infected there. COVID-19 is very virulent (spreads rapidly) and the WHO announced that it now appears to have a fatality rate of 3.4 percent (the flu in the U.S. is less than one percent). As the disease spreads it will need to be determined whether this rate remains or decreases as more knowledge about COVID-19 emerges. Most research is based on China as most other countries are several weeks behind China in timing of incubation, transmission and diagnosis, etc.
The rapid sequencing and sharing of the genetic code of SARS-CoV-2 has allowed for work to begin on finding a vaccine or anti-viral treatment. Medical and epidemiological research indicates that human-to-human transmission, surface contamination and airborne transmission are possible.
Due to the significant impact inside China, the government took extreme public health precautions including social isolation and the quarantine of over 59 million people in Hubei province in order to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2. The quarantine was seen as extremely controversial at the beginning, but it is now recognized that it may have prevented a large-scale, fast-spreading pandemic. Now countries and cities around the world are implementing their own travel restrictions, quarantines and mandatory closures. In the U.S., people are allowed to gather in groups of no more than 50 according to the newest guidance from the CDC.
As this disease continues to spread across the world and emerge in new countries, the number of responding organizations continues to grow as well. Funders should consider:
Looking for organizations with significant capital needs. Many public health, low-income and other clinics will not have the ability to make significant capital purchases of masks, gowns, gloves and other essential personal protective equipment (PPE). These items will help prevent the infection of essential medical staff who are at increased risk because of their close contact with people who may be infected. There are also clinics and hospitals in need of equipment that can be used for diagnostics, such as CT scans, portable x-ray machines, etc.
Finding ways to support quarantined individuals. The use of quarantines is crucial to helping control the spread of any infectious disease, including COVID-19. However, extended quarantine times can be very difficult for the people who are quarantined. They are unable to go to work, go shopping for necessities, attend social functions or even see their families in some cases. Anything that can help make quarantine a little more bearable and mitigate the effects of social isolation (such as reduced income and increased mental health challenges) for people makes it more likely they will keep themselves quarantined for the appropriate amount of time. This includes supporting them once the quarantine is over, especially if they lost income, housing or employment.
Funding organizations that are working in areas with poor access to regular medical services. People without access to regular medical care are more prone to have existing medical needs that make them more susceptible to infections of all types, including SARS-CoV-2. Supporting healthy populations will help limit the spread of all viruses and other infections.
Conducting advocacy to encourage corporations and governments to support people affected by quarantines or business reduction. This can include encouraging businesses to change their PTO policies to extend sick leave benefits. It also can include policies that mandate no evictions or utility shutoffs (including phone and internet) during a quarantine or reduction in hours.
Supporting groups that are focused on WASH Water, Sanitation and Hygiene are key to limiting the spread of any infection, especially those that are spread by close contact. Increasing access to WASH resources will help limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and other infections.
Supporting the research into SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. While much is known about coronaviruses in general, this virus is new to infecting humans. Significant research into vaccines and antivirals will be needed in order to achieve breakthroughs that may help save lives. It will also be important to ensure that vaccines and antivirals are accessible to even the poorest countries and not amassed by wealthier nations.
Supporting research that was put on hold. With much of the world’s resources dedicated to understanding SARS-CoV-2, other crucial research has been put on hold. Funding to continue and advance those lines of research will help to maintain the successes.
How to Help
Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) has a COVID-19 Response Fund that provides an opportunity for donors to meet the ongoing and ever-expanding challenges presented by this virus.
It is important that funders take time to develop their own Continuity of Operations Plans (COOP) to help staff and grantees understand how they will respond if and when the crisis hits their community. Look for partnership opportunities that could provide some redundancy in operations (e.g. Is there another foundation that could assist with payroll or making payments to grantees if your staff is quarantined?)
Plan your giving in response to COVID-19. Don’t just react to the latest media report. Research the facts and the organizations that are responding. There is a lot of misinformation being circulated. The WHO and the CDC COVID-19 websites are recommended sources of timely, reliable information.
There are going to be multiple phases and needs in this crisis – the medical response situation, support for research and assisting vulnerable people who have been impacted. Match your giving to one of these areas or decide how you will transition funds as needs change.
Funds: In addition to our own COVID-19 Response Fund, we are aware of many large international funds or funds responding on a broad level. There are also hundreds of community foundations around the country. It is likely that as the virus travels and more communities are affected, community foundations will develop their own COVID-19 response funds. We encourage you to find the community foundation in your area or look at the list on the Council on Foundations resources page (CoF). If you are a responding community foundation, please contact CoF to get listed.
Local NGOs: As with all disasters, this epidemic is going to start and end locally. Think about the local NGOs that you already support in the areas of housing/homelessness, healthcare, nutrition/food support, mental health, domestic violence, care for seniors etc. There is going to be an increased need for their services during and after this outbreak. They need flexible, unrestricted funds that can provide additional dollars to deal with this epidemic.
Structuring Giving: You may want to allocate your giving in a few ways:
Give internationally: This is an ongoing, international epidemic. While there are countries that do have resources, many countries do not have the resources of U.S.-based organizations. They are also harder to give to, so look for the large international funds or organizations that already have a presence and are working in these countries.
Support medical needs:Some of the biggest demands are for personal, protective equipment (PPE) and for supplies such as ventilators, CT/x-ray machines etc. Smaller hospitals may not have these resources and risk being very vulnerable to an outbreak. This is a great time for a capital needs investment in your local community hospital. Connect with your health care system directly or through a medically-servicing NGO.
Support vulnerable populations: We know that this disease impacts the elderly quite hard. Look to your local Council on Aging or seniors’ centers and see what support is needed. People with pre-existing illnesses – including diabetes and high blood pressure – are also at high risk. What organizations are already supporting home-bound populations? Who is supporting people to get access to flu shots, medications, medical travel? If a quarantine is imposed it is going to impact low-income earners (including hospitality, tourism and travel workers) as well as people who are isolated or have a disability. Who is providing support for people with disabilities in your community and what new needs do they have?
Reach out to your existing grantees to see how the crisis has affected them. Consider issuing some additional funding to help them meet the new needs of their clients.
Local knowledge is important. As this disease spreads, understanding cultures and community needs will be critical. Allow local leaders and organizations on-the-ground to develop the programming as needs arise.
CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations to consider related to disaster giving.
Lauren Smith from FSG: COVID-19 – Seven Things Philanthropy Can Do. This is helpful especially for community foundations who might be seeking to enhance their community’s resiliency or provide education to their communities about how to stay healthy.
Bill Gates: How to respond to COVID-19. Directed at a broader audience, he calls for improved funding of pandemic research and paying special attention to vulnerable populations. He also advocates for funding abroad as a solution to prevent global spread.