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Serena Williams Donates 4.25 Million Masks for Kids

Serena Williams, one of the most highly decorated athletes of all time, is one of many celebrities taking public health into her own hands during the COVID-19 crisis. On Sunday August 9th, the tennis star announced on her Instagram that she’s teaming up with clothing company Bella Canvas, publishing company Scholastic Inc, and the National School Board Association to donate 4.25 million masks to underserved schools around the country. Additionally, the team-up, going by the hashtag #MasksForKids, wants to distribute educational materials about masks to every schoolchild in the country.

Schools will also be able to buy additional masks for students, with a mask donated for every mask sold, on top of that initial 4+ million.

“Getting back to school this fall means having #masksforkids to wear,” Williams wrote. “I’m grateful to be able to help educate our schools about this resource, and to be given the opportunity to serve so many students.”

While scientists almost universally agree that children in the U.S. should not be going back to school in person this fall at all, in many states, classes have already begun. For instance, in Georgia, schools began in the first week of August. North Paulding High School, where a student’s pictures of crowded, maskless hallways went viral after she was suspended for taking them, has already seen nine new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in both students and staff.

If students are going to be back in class, despite these risks, they must be given masks. And the wearing of them must be enforced, along with education of why it is so important to do so. Too many Americans simply don’t or won’t understand that wearing a mask is an act of compassion, not a sign of fear. Education is the key to moving past the politicization we’ve seen these past few months and stopping this pandemic from spreading even further.

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Jay-Z and Meek Mill’s Initiative Urges Prisons to Address COVID-19

In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the flea-spread typhus was spread so heavily in prisons that it was called jail fever. It spread unavoidably between inmates because they were crowded in conditions that didn’t allow them to take care of their own hygiene. And while endemic typhus is no longer a jailhouse plague, inmates are still particularly vulnerable to crowd-spread disease.

The steps we’re all taking to keep one another safe – social distance, frequent hand-washing, sanitizer, and masks – aren’t available to inmates. As of the end of April, over 10,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in U.S. prisons and jails.

Reform Alliance, an organization launched in 2019 by rappers Meek Mill and Jay-Z, is an initiative dedicated towards prison reform, specifically aiming at challenging the for-profit prison model that many say results in over-sentencing. Their overall goal is to reduce the number of people subject to parole and probation law by one million before 2025, by changing laws and policies. But in the current crisis, more urgent goals have risen up.

“COVID-19 is ripping through our prison system and risking the lives of everyone inside,” says a pop-up when one visits Reform Alliance’s website, directing visitors to a petition they can sign with their Facebook information. The petition urges prison authorities to increase the safety of their facilities, including equipment, monitoring, and reporting.

Editorial credit: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com

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Donation Organizations The Power of Giving

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Donates $13.6M to Antibody Testing

In 2015 on the birthday of their daughter, pediatrician Priscilla Chan and her husband, Mark Zuckerberg, set up the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub to fight disease worldwide. In the past 5 years, most of their activities have been towards securing funding beyond the $1 billion in yearly funds coming from Facebook shares, but now they are taking a step forward.

On Wednesday, April 29th, Zuckerberg announced that the Initiative would be donating $13.6 million towards COVID-19 antibody testing in San Franscisco, and coordinating with Stanford University and the University of California to conduct antibody studies in the Bay Area.

There will be two studies, one of which has already begun. The first will test 4,000 Bay Area volunteers monthly for both active COVID-19 and for the antibodies which will indicate they’ve encountered the disease before. That one will run from April into December, and be used to track where new cases emerge, helping to guide a safe return to normal.

The second study will be localized to frontline health care workers. 3,500 doctors, nurses, and EMTs will be tested weekly to determine how heavily and quickly the medical community can be hit. It will also work on determining if prior infection means future immunity, which is so far an unknown factor. Many important things hinge on whether or not you can re-catch the disease, and no one really knows yet.

Both studies are intended to be used as guideposts in reopening business and normal life in and around San Franscisco, but their data will have world-wide applications. The Chan Zuckerberg donation is the largest single share of funding coming into this vital project.

In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg also mentioned combining the data from both studies with the self-report symptom surveys that Facebook has been running for a Carnegie Mellon research group, which could provide even more information.

Source: The Week

Editorial credit: Frederic Legrand – COMEO / Shutterstock.com