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The Rockefeller Foundation Launches Covid-19 Action Plan to Reopen Workplaces, Protect Lives

$10 million is committed to operationalize “plan of plans” in nearly 10 places

New York, April 21, 2020 —The Rockefeller Foundation, in consultation with leading economists, public health experts, and business leaders, released a new comprehensive National Covid-19 Testing Action Plan rooted in data and science and using testing and contact tracing to provide a roadmap for U.S. leaders to reopen the economy while safeguarding public health. The Foundation is committing $15 million to the work, $10 million will be to support steps to operationalize in nearly 10 places, including: Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, Greater Miami and the Beaches (a partnership including Miami, Miami Beach, and Miami Dade County), the Navajo Nation, New Orleans, and the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

“We know this is an ambitious Plan, but we are facing an economic slowdown that rivals the Great Depression,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “A crisis of this magnitude requires bold action.”

As Covid-19 has swept across the U.S., killing over 30,000 Americans, leaders have been forced to issue strict social distancing guidelines and shut down many parts of the economy. More than 22 million Americans filed for unemployment in recent weeks, a record high. Government officials, business leaders and many employees are anxious to restart the economy, but with no vaccine available and limited testing capacity, it has been unclear how to achieve this without causing a second wave of infections that would further devastate communities and the economy.

“Without a vaccine, treatment or other preventive measures and lacking a sufficient supply of diagnostic tests, a partial reopening will require a delicate balancing act with a significant scale-up of testing alongside extensive contact tracing,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “It requires hard work, but with great care and collaboration we believe the most severe lockdowns can be lifted and a phased reopening of some businesses could begin.”

The Rockefeller Foundation’s Treatment Action Plan will require extensive investment and the largest public health testing program in U.S. history, including:

  • launching the largest public health testing system to monitor infections and future infection waves,
  • expanding the capacities and resources of thousands of small laboratories around the country to provide much of the expanded testing,
  • establishing a medical reserve corps to distribute and oversee testing,
  • hiring as many as 300,000 people to undertake a rigorous campaign of contact tracing,
  • developing coordinated computer systems and a digital platform for information sharing and infection tracking,
  • addressing the significant challenges around medical privacy and other ethical issues,
  • creating a Pandemic Testing Board to oversee the testing scale-up and coordination between federal, state and local jurisdictions.

The Rockefeller Foundation hired Dr. Jonathan Quick to lead the Foundation’s pandemic response. Quick has extensive experience in international public health with the World Health Organization, Management Sciences for Health and the Duke Global Health Institute among others.  He is the author of The End of Epidemics: The Looming Threat to Humanity and How to Stop It and an often sought adviser on managing pandemics.

“Time is of the essence:  In early April Covid-19 has surpassed cancer as the second leading cause of death in the U.S., claimed the lives of nearly 40,000,” said Dr. Jonathan Quick, Managing Director for Response, Preparedness, and Prevention at The Rockefeller Foundation. “We have passed the peak for new cases, but we know the economic disruption caused by the virus will linger, causes additional deaths and increasing the risk of alcoholism, mental health problems, and domestic abuse.”

Implementing the recommendations in the Action Plan could cost as much as $3 billion a day, or $90 billion a month. However, with widespread business closures costing the country $350 billion to $400 billion each month, a testing regimen that could sustain a partial reopening of the economy until a vaccine is widely available would pay for itself in within the first month.

To drive action and implementation in the coming weeks and months, the Foundation is building a coalition called the Testing Solutions Group. Participating cities and states will be able to repeatedly and consistently test their citizens for Covid-19 from June 2020 through early 2021, learn from each other and share best practices. To achieve this vision, the Coalition has four objectives:

  • Provide immediate support to mayors to enhance their testing and data capabilities—with a focus on the most vulnerable citizens. This may include direct funding as well as technical assistance to strengthen policies and strategies.
  • Drive collaboration across cities to share and implement best practices.
  • Bring together expertise from industry and academia to develop strategy and policy recommendations that support mayors and their leadership teams.
  • Collect real-time data, evidence, and feedback from mayors implementing testing strategies.

There are significant challenges involved in implementing this Treatment Action Plan, including expanding critical lab supplies, hiring and training 100,000 to 300,000 community health workers to manage the extensive contact tracing needs, and balancing medical privacy issues with public health needs. All are needed to ensure that as people return to work, they do not put others and themselves at risk of infection. Finding solutions to these challenges will require participation, coordination, and collaboration across all sectors of society.

The Rockefeller Foundation refers to this National Covid-19 Testing Action Plan as the “plan of plans” because it was built with extensive consultation and contains the most agreed elements of other institution’s plans.

About The Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation advances new frontiers of science, data, and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power, and economic mobility. As a science-driven philanthropy focused on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to inspire and foster large-scale human impact that promotes the well-being of humanity throughout the world by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas, and conversations. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn.

Media Contact
Ashley Chang