Early in the pandemic, Elon Musk was no friend to those trying to keep the disease under control. A skeptic with a massive platform and one of the world’s most-followed twitter accounts, he publicly (wrongly) predicted that COVID-19 would vanish in a few weeks and called California’s shelter-in-place order “fascist” when it shut down his car plant. He also argued with an actual virologist that he knew better than she did how disease spreads, posting already-debunked graphs to prove his point, and filed a lawsuit against Alameda County to try to force them to exempt his company from lockdown closures. His twitter is the first place many people heard about the (false) theory that hospitals were mis-attributing deaths to COVID-19 for… well, some nebulous reason.
Even after being diagnosed himself in early December, 2020, Musk didn’t seem any less skeptical of reasonable precautions.
In the first week of January, Elon Musk passed up Jeff Bezos to become the world’s wealthiest person with a net worth of $209.3 billion. He asked twitter for philanthropic ideas. He signed the Giving Pledge several years ago – a pledge designed by Bill Gates for the superwealthy to promise to give more than half of their net worth away in their lifetime – but has done relatively little on that front. Musk has donated more than $257 million to his own Musk Foundation, but they’ve distributed relatively little of it. Only $65 million since 2016, to approximately 200 nonprofits. With the recent increase in his fortune, that $257 million is only just over 1 percent of his fortune. Far from the half of the Giving Pledge.
On Monday, January 18, despite all of his earlier behavior, the Musk Foundation announced that he would be donating $5 million to two Boston doctors who have and continue to work on COVID-19 vaccines and diagnostic tools. Doctor Dan Barouch and Doctor Galit Alter are both associated with the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT, and Harvard in Boston.
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