Responding Globally, Nationally, and Locally to COVID-19

COVID-19 Response

Beginning in early 2020, as COVID-19 developed into a global pandemic, Bloomberg Philanthropies launched several response efforts focused on saving lives, stopping the spread of the virus, and mitigating its devastating economic and social harm. These efforts, which involved adapting current programs and creating new ones, have built on Bloomberg Philanthropies’ existing partnerships and expertise.

Contact tracer in Ethiopia who received training from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ partner Vital Strategies.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are on the cutting edge of COVID-19 treatment research.


Reinforcing Public Health Systems in African and Low- and Middle-Income Countries Around the World

Personal protective equipment training in Ethiopia run by partner Vital Strategies.

Low- and middle-income countries, many with underfunded public health systems, are especially vulnerable to pandemics like COVID-19. Bloomberg Philanthropies provided immediate support of $40 million to help many of these countries together with two long-term partners: the World Health Organization and Vital Strategies’ Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative run by former CDC Director Tom Frieden. Their rapid-response efforts provided critical protective equipment, training, and funding.

Bloomberg Philanthropies joined the international community to support the World Health Organization as it bought and shipped personal protective equipment to 135 countries, supplied 1.5 million diagnostic kits to 129 countries, and released 90+ technical guidance documents.

Hear why it’s important to prioritize slowing the spread of COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries

Vital Strategies’ efforts are focused on 35 countries in Africa, providing rapid-response funds for governments to hire staff and buy equipment; training frontline health care workers on infection prevention and control; supporting governments’ risk communications and community engagement efforts; and more.

For example, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Vital Strategies helped Nigeria train lab scientists, create a national strategic plan for labs, develop contact tracing guidelines, and draft guidance on implementing social distancing measures.

In Sierra Leone, which experienced a spike in cases in early June, Bloomberg Philanthropies supported training for approximately 400 frontline health care workers from seven hospitals. These sessions covered topics such as identifying potential cases, protecting health care workers and preventing transmission between patients, and communicating effectively about the risks of COVID-19.

“These trainings are critical to protecting our health workforce and their patients from COVID-19 infection and lead to a more resilient response to COVID-19 and pandemics to come.”
Dr. Mame Toure
Partner in Sierra Leone

Supporting Vulnerable Refugee Populations

The International Rescue Committee has taken precautions to ensure the safety of its activities in northwest Syria and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to assist the most vulnerable families in rebuilding their lives.

Refugees, who often live in densely populated conditions where social distancing and proper hygiene can be difficult, are also particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. As part of Mike Bloomberg’s long standing support of the International Rescue Committee, Bloomberg Philanthropies contributed $10 million to support the organization and the 25 million refugees and migrants it serves across 40 countries. The funds provided infection control training, new telemedicine services, and upgraded health facilities.


Supporting Response and Recovery: The COVID-19 Local Response Initiative

First COVID-19 Local Response Initiative session in March 2020.

Through the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies provides leadership training and management tools to help mayors and other local leaders address their cities’ most pressing challenges. When COVID-19 emerged as an unprecedented global challenge, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, along with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, began hosting virtual convenings to support mayors around the world. These convenings provide mayors and city leaders access to the most up-to-date public health information and expert coaching on a range of challenges, from effective communications to how to encourage mask usage. City officials also heard from prominent leaders from different fields, including the newly elected U.S. president and three of his predecessors.

More than 1,000 mayors and city leaders from 435 cities have participated in COVID-19 Local Response Initiative sessions

COVID-19 Response

Click on the cities below to learn about our global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beyond these sessions, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg Associates have provided guidance, online tools, a daily email of COVID-19 response and recovery resources, and technical assistance to help city governments address the operational and economic challenges presented by the pandemic, including: navigating federal funding streams and maximizing reimbursements; addressing COVID-19–related transportation challenges; providing resources to cities to help address homelessness; and prioritizing and implementing programs to support local economic recovery.

“Attending the Bloomberg Philanthropies
Local Response Initiative sessions is the most
valuable thing I do all week.”
Mayor Stephen Benjamin
Columbia, South Carolina
May 2020

See how cities involved in the COVID-19 Local Response Initiative took action:

Grand Rapids, Michigan 
Helping small businesses adapt

St. Paul, Minnesota
Providing food to those in need

Watch more in the video series A City Responds


Supporting Communities in New York and London

Kids safely playing at Fresh Air Fund site in Jackson Heights, New York.

Financial losses, coupled with a need for protective equipment and technology to enable working in person or remotely, left many social service and cultural organizations at risk of shutting down. Bloomberg Philanthropies helped establish three separate funds to assist these critical sources of care, culture, and creativity in New York and London:

  • The NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund, launched together with a group of foundations, including the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and The New York Community Trust, raised more than $110 million from more than 1,300 donors to distribute more than 800 grants and no-interest loans to small and mid- sized organizations throughout New York City.
  • Bloomberg L.P. and Bloomberg Philanthropies partnered with London Mayor Sadiq Khan to support the launch of two COVID-19 emergency response funds: the nearly £42 million London Community Response Fund and the £2.3 million Culture at Risk Business Support Fund.
  • These funds have distributed grants to more than 2,000 nonprofit social service and cultural organizations and over 100 for-profit cultural venues and organizations at risk of closing due to the pandemic, including small music venues, independent cinemas, and LGBTQ+ venues.

As the pandemic limited options for safe outdoor activity during the summer, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Ford Foundation, and The JPB Foundation provided a $1.2 million grant to support The Fresh Air Fund’s Summer Spaces and Youth Employment programs in New York City. Summer Spaces provided 26,000 children from low-income communities across the city with safe, supervised recreational activity and employed more than 200 young adults as activity specialists, coaches, and counselors.

Hear how The Fresh Air Fund transformed city streets into socially distant play spaces and provided employment to local youth

Frontline workers in New York City who received some of the over one million meals served by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ partner World Central Kitchen.

Together with global partners, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg L.P. also contributed nearly three and a half million meals to COVID-19 frontline workers and communities in need. Bloomberg Philanthropies partnered with World Central Kitchen to serve more than one million of those meals to more than 30,000 NYC Health + Hospitals employees, supporting their extraordinary efforts on the front lines of the pandemic in New York City. This effort also helped put back to work 400 food service employees across the city. Bloomberg L.P. provided nearly two and a half million meals to over 150 nonprofit partners and food banks in nearly 100 cities around the world, including by working with existing food vendors and nonprofit partners to distribute meals and food from the company’s pantries in 18 cities, such as Dubai, London, New York, Princeton, San Francisco, and Tokyo.

One Million Meals Delivered to NYC Health Care Workers on the Frontlines

The pandemic — and the resulting shift to remote learning — also increased the likelihood that low-income students would not graduate from high school or would abandon plans to attend college in the fall. Funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies allowed College Bridge, a partnership between the New York City Department of Education and The City University of New York (CUNY), to make their program available to all 2020 graduating seniors from New York City public high schools. Ultimately, the program supported nearly 40,000 students from 315 schools in their successful transition from high school to college. Bloomberg L.P. also moved its mentoring programs online, so that employees could continue to advise students globally.

How the London Community Response Fund Empowers the WOW Foundation

Reducing the Rate of COVID-19 Infections Through Contact Tracing

In late April, at the request of Governor Andrew Cuomo, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Vital Strategies’ Resolve to Save Lives partnered with the New York State Department of Health to launch an unprecedented, large-scale contact tracing program to help reduce the infection rate of COVID-19 and support safe reopening across the state.

As part of this effort, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health designed and disseminated the training for the New York State contact tracing program. This online training is also available for free to the public. More than one million people have enrolled in the introductory course.

Bloomberg Philanthropies and its partners are providing guidance to several other states and cities implementing their own contact tracing programs, including Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Detroit, Michigan.

Implementing Proven Intervention Strategies Such As Contact Tracing on the Road to Recovery from COVID-19

Investing in COVID-19 Treatment Research

As doctors, public health officials, and other medical experts learn more about COVID-19, Bloomberg Philanthropies is funding two promising medical research studies.

Can Blood Plasma Therapy Treat COVID-19 Patients?

Building on years of deep commitment to Johns Hopkins University and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Bloomberg Philanthropies committed $3 million to support Bloomberg Distinguished Professor Dr. Arturo Casadevall’s research into the use of plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is also supporting NYU Langone Health’s research into the connection between COVID-19, autoimmune diseases, and common medications used to treat autoimmune diseases.

What is Convalescent Blood Plasma Therapy?

Top photo: Frontline health care workers in New York City receiving meals through a partnership with World Central Kitchen, May 2020. Credit: Will Kirk/Johns Hopkins University, Tewodros Emiru/Resolve to Save Lives