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Elon Musk, Once a COVID Skeptic, Donates $5M to Doctors Fighting Pandemic

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.

Editorial credit: vasilis asvestas / Shutterstock.com

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Donation

Elon Musk Helps Fix Flint Water Crisis

Back in July, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he would help fix the water quality issues in Flint, Michigan.

“Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination above FDA levels. No kidding,” he tweeted, in response to a follower saying it couldn’t be done.

A few days later, the office of Flint Mayor Karen Weaver confirmed that he had, in fact, reached out. On October 4, the Flint Community Schools district confirmed that the Musk Foundation would be giving every school in the city new water stations with building-wide filtration to ensure that Flint’s 4,500 students will have access to clean water.

“Thank you… for investing in the health/future well-being [of] FCS Students! Your generous donation will help us replace ALL water fountains w/ NEW WATER STATIONS & WATER FILTRATION at ALL SCHOOLS! Looking forward to our burgeoning partnership! More to come!” the school district tweeted.

Musk responded, “You’re most welcome. Hope to do more to help in the future.”

The Musk Foundation, which is based in California, is heavily focused on advocacy, STEM education, and pediatric research. Founded in 2002 by Elon Musk and his brother, the foundation has donated on average $800,000 per year in grants and disbursements to various causes. The plumbing renovations in Flint are estimated to cost nearly $500,000, which is why it was impossible for the bankrupt city to manage without aid.

Earlier this year, nearby Detroit shut off all drinking water to the city’s 106 schools, serving 50,000 students. Flint may be the flagship for water quality control, but the problem is much, much larger. Hopefully, Musk’s example will lead to more community involvement in solving this matter.