Although funding from the government had not yet been made available, Monroe said the foundation was able to get things kickstarted. “That’s [the] flexibility and catalytic nature of philanthropy.”

She said one of the things the foundation is proud of is how quickly they were able to train health-care workers in West Africa on infection prevention and control practices.

Turning to COVID-19, Monroe said one of the critical needs now is taking care of health-care workers by protecting them with surgical equipment and N95 masks. She noted that there is a shortage of masks, but the federal government is taking much more aggressive steps to fulfill that need. “Our health-care systems are overwhelmed because of supply chain issues and our health-care workers are in peril if they can’t get supplies,” she said.

Just last week, Monroe said, the foundation received a call from one of its philanthropic partners on the ground who was able to  acquire a large quantity of personal protective equipment, but needed to get payment to get them out to a hospital in a large state. “We responded quickly. Another call from one of the cities also involved donations of these products but they needed money for transportation. ... Again, we immediately responded.”

“We have to move faster than the virus and that’s really hard to do. This is not a time to move slow,” she said, adding that on Friday the foundation again acted quickly by contracting to cover the cost required for the immediate deployment of COVID-19 testing. 

Monroe said flexible funds during the COVID-19 pandemic are of utmost importance. “The first thing I want to say to everyone is, right now, given the situation, the best gift is actually unrestricted so that the professionals who are trying to manage this can move in real time,” she said. 

Secondly, she said donors can request geographic restrictions if they want to direct their donation to a particular city, state or community. The third preferred way to donate is to request a broader category like communication, testing and research, she said.

Monroe said homelessness is one of the areas where local health departments are asking for help. “There is a huge need to help with the homeless communit. ...Because they are in close quarters, they can spread (the virus) very easily,” she said.

At the national level, Monroe said, tele-help will be important. “We have to ramp up tele-help quickly. The federal government is doing that, but there are still other needs on the ground to really make that happen,” she said, noting that the foundation is working with some communities on that.

Communication is a real need right now at all leves, she saidl. “We know that some of our young people can become seriously ill," she said. “We have young adults who are not hearing the message, just not paying attention."