Coronavirus Updates

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As the coronavirus pandemic upends daily life for millions around the globe, Booth alumni are stepping up to help their companies and communities in a multitude of ways—from launching grassroots fundraising efforts, to launching new initiatives within their organizations, to supporting those on the front lines of the fight.

“I learned at Booth that we have a social responsibility to try to make an impact,” said Qingquan (Tony) Zhang, ’15, who organized a fundraising drive that delivered much-needed masks and protective equipment to China in late January, when the virus was spreading rapidly there. “I received an education from one of the top universities in the world, and I feel it’s my duty to help others.” 

In another grassroots effort, Booth alumni in Shanghai stepped up and immediately responded this April when they learned of UChicago Medicine’s dire need for personal protective equipment (PPE) to fight COVID-19. Organized by Cindy Zhao, ’02, and supported by a generous donation from Dave Chenn, ’00, as well as contributions from dozens of other alumni, the fundraiser ultimately raised $112,000 for the Medical Center.

“Since we were just coming out of a total lockdown in China, many alumni responded with an earnest desire to support our alma mater,” Zhao said. “I started to receive donations within one minute.”

Learn more about the alumni initiative in China

Read on to find out how other Booth alumni around the globe are doing what they can to help out during this crisis, from vaccine research to meal donations to employee support.

Want to highlight a Booth graduate who’s making a difference? Send a note to

Hyatt Launches Hyatt Care Fund to Provide Financial Relief
Global hotel company Hyatt launched the Hyatt Care Fund in an effort to help employees with reduced work schedules as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s significant impact on the hospitality industry. President and CEO Mark Hoplamazian, ’89, and chairman of the board Tom Pritzker, ’76, are forgoing 100 percent of their salaries to help seed the fund, which will give grants to help affected employees pay for rent, groceries, childcare, and other bills. (April 14)

Shopping Behavior Index Aims to Help Brands Understand Shifting Spending Habits
Numerator, a Chicago-based tech company serving the market research space, has extended its weekly Shopping Behavior Index tracker to provide further visibility into consumer buying behavior shifts driven by the spread of COVID-19. CEO Eric Belcher, ’95, cited that 1 in 3 durables purchases in March was driven by the COVID-19 dynamics. "There is no longer on-premise consumption at QSRs [quick-service restaurants], and brands and retailers need to understand that reallocation of spend," said Belcher. (April 9)

Circle K to Donate Meals to Feeding America
Convenience store chain Circle K announced a pledge to donate 25 million meals to Feeding America in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting April 10, for every fuel transaction made at a Circle K, one meal will be donated to a local member food bank of the Feeding America network. “Our mission as a company has always been to make our customers’ lives a little easier every day, and we know the best way to get through these difficult days is to band together and support each other,” said president and CEO Brian Hannasch, ’94. (April 9)

Axon Stepping Up to Provide PPE, Digital Tools for First Responders
Public safety technology company Axon announced it will commit $1 million for PPE for first responders, including a partnership with the National Police Foundation, and will match up to $500,000 in community donations. "Axon's mission is to protect life, and when technology isn't the answer, we must look for another solution,” said CEO and founder Rick Smith, ’93. “In this case, helping people meet the most basic needs is the most important thing we can and will do.” The Scottsdale, Arizona-based company also previously announced it would provide agencies with free global access to its digital evidence platform Axon Citizen, allowing officers to gather digital evidence from the community without the need for in-person interaction. (April 9)

ARCH Venture Partners Raises $1.46B for Biotech Investing
Chicago-based life sciences VC fund ARCH Venture Partners announced the closing of two new funds with a combined $1.46 billion to invest in transformative, early-stage biotechnology companies. “ARCH has always been driven to invest in great science to impact human health. There isn’t a better illustration of our principles than our all-in battle against COVID-19,” said cofounder and managing director Robert Nelsen, ’87. Fellow managing directors include Kristina Burow, ’04, and Keith Crandell, ’88. (April 2)

Booz Allen Hamilton Commits $100M+ to Pandemic Resilience Program
McLean, Virginia-based consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton announced a pandemic resilience program of more than $100 million to support its 27,000 employees and their communities, including benefit program enhancements, a job security pledge, and other assistance. “These moves will help protect the health and financial security of our people, their loved ones, and their communities during a very uncertain, difficult time,” said president and CEO Horacio Rozanski, ’92. “Supporting our people empowers them to fully support our clients in this time of critical need. Our business is our people, and this is just the right thing to do.” (April 1)

UChicago-Bred Startup Offering Free Services to Businesses Affected by COVID-19
Tharzen, a universal website content management system, for at least the next two months is offering free business licenses to businesses that are financially impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, said CEO Aseem Bhardwaj, ’20 (XP-89). The Polsky Center profiled Tharzen’s startup journey last year. (March 30)

Chipotle Expands Pay, Benefits for Restaurant Employees
Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it would give $9 million in discretionary bonuses to restaurants and increase hourly pay by 10 percent for restaurant employees to help them and their families during this time. The Newport Beach, California-based restaurant chain also expanded emergency leave benefits for employees. In addition to offering free delivery for customers, the chain is giving away 100,000 burritos to health-care workers. It also launched an e-gift-card program that supports Direct Relief, an organization working to provide PPE to health-care workers. Brian Niccol, ’03, is chairman and CEO. (March 27)

Medical-Device Maker Abiomed Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Heart-pump maker Abiomed outlined a number of ways in which it is focusing on clinically supporting patients and physicians, manufacturing  its Impella heart pumps and supplying them to hospitals, and keeping employees safe amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Abiomed has always put patients first and we continue to do so during these challenging times for the world’s health-care systems,” said Michael R. Minogue, ’01 (XP-70), chairman, president, and CEO. “Abiomed would like to thank the medical community for all they are doing to support patients and provide much needed medical care during the COVID-19 health emergency.” (March 25)

Oxford Hotels & Resorts Supplying Rooms for First Responders
Oxford Hotels & Resorts, LLC, a full-service hotel management company, is supplying the City of Chicago with up to 1,100 rooms at its properties to support efforts against the spread of the coronavirus. In addition to housing asymptomatic guests and those requiring isolation, the rooms will also provide sanctuary for first responders who are involved in the war against COVID-19. John W. Rutledge, ’94 (XP-63), founder, president, and CEO, said, “We’re proud to help the city combat this crisis and allow our brave medical professionals to focus on their most critical patients in their hospitals.” (March 25)

Brown-Forman to Donate $1M to COVID-19 Response
Lawson Whiting, ’97, CEO of Brown-Forman Corporation, announced that the company will donate $1 million to COVID-19 response funds. “As COVID-19 has spread throughout the world, we want to provide assistance to our communities in this time of great need,” Whiting said. “We are announcing today donations totaling $1 million that will enable us to give back to the people and communities that mean so much to our company.” Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Brown-Forman is a producer and marketer of wine and spirits. (March 23)

Banco Santander Creates €25M  Fund in Pandemic Response
Madrid-based bank Banco Santander has created a fund to provide essential equipment and materials, including medical equipment, protective clothing, and other necessary supplies. The fund is initially expected to be worth at least €25 million. Group executive chairman Ana Botín and CEO José Antonio Alvarez, ’96 (EXP-1), have agreed to reduce their total compensation for 2020 by 50 percent. (March 23)

Microsoft Joins White House Consortium to Help Researchers
Microsoft is among the members of a public-private consortium organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to provide COVID-19 researchers worldwide with access to high-performance computing resources that can significantly advance the pace of scientific discovery in the fight to stop the virus. The Redmond, Washington-based software maker, led by CEO Satya Nadella, ’97, announced a number of other ways it’s responding to help communities, employees, and technology users. (March 23)

Spirits Maker Pernod Ricard USA to Produce Hand Sanitizer
The New York–headquartered wine and spirits producer Pernod Ricard USA announced it will produce and donate hand sanitizer to help in the national fight against COVID-19. “The health and safety of our employees—and our communities—is our top priority,” said chair and CEO Ann Mukherjee, AB ’87, MBA ’94. “In times like this, it is important that everyone, especially companies with strong US roots like ours, prioritize good corporate citizenship and step up in the name of the greater good.” (March 18)

Signify Health Joins White House Task Force to Expand Testing
Signify Health, a Dallas-based provider of tech-enabled health-care services, joined a Trump Administration task force to discuss ways to expedite and expand coronavirus testing. “Through our network and our logistics engine, we stand ready to help and provide our clinicians to be where they’re needed, whether they’re in retail clinics or in the home. . . . We’re here to assist,” said COO David Pierre, ’07, during a White House press conference. (March 13)

Grubhub Launches Economic Relief Effort for Restaurants, Delivery Partners
Chicago-based food delivery app Grubhub announced it would temporarily suspend collection of up to $100 million in commission payments from impacted independent restaurants nationwide. “Independent restaurants are the lifeblood of our cities and feed our communities,” said cofounder and CEO Matt Maloney, ’10. “They have been amazing long-term partners for us, and we wanted to help them in their time of need. Our business is their business—so this was an easy decision for us to make.” Grubhub has also created a fund that will enable proceeds from its Donate the Change program to go toward charitable organizations that support restaurants and drivers impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis. (March 13)

Novavax Advances Development of Novel COVID-19 Vaccine
Novavax Inc., a late-stage biotechnology company based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, announced progress in its efforts to develop a novel vaccine to protect against COVID-19. “Our previous experience working with other coronaviruses, including both MERS and SARS, allowed us to mobilize quickly against COVID-19 and successfully complete the critical preliminary steps to engineer viable vaccine candidates,” said Stanley C. Erck, ’76, president and CEO of Novavax. “We are now well positioned to advance the COVID-19 vaccine candidate to Phase I clinical testing in May or June.” (February 26)


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