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 Centers 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 Organizationcautions 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 CEO TIm Cook announced on Saturday that Apple will be donating “millions” of masks to health workers in the US and Europe.
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.
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.”
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 criticize 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.
On Sunday a researcher at the University of Washington Medical Center (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 CEO Marc Benioff tweeted Sunday that Salesforce had already donated 9,000 masks to the University of California Medical Center, and is working on distributing a total of 5 million masks this week plus extra protective equipment.
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 millionwould go towards 24 Latin American countries.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella outlined the ways his company is teaming up with medical and research organizations 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.
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