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Relief fund will support families of healthcare workers who died of COVID-19

Dr. Michael Osterholm has partnered with the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation to launch the Frontline Families Fund.

The St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation has launched a fund to provide financial support to families of the hundreds of frontline healthcare workers who've died due to COVID-19. 

The foundation partnered with Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) and member of President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force, to create the Frontline Families Fund, the foundation said in a Monday news release

“I’m deeply troubled by the steep toll COVID-19 is taking among our frontline healthcare workers,” Osterholm said in a statement. “We can never make right what happened to these families. But we can do something for them as they have been there to care for us. This pandemic is so painful. We need a pandemic of caring to take it on.”

Nearly 1,400 healthcare workers in the United States have died of COVID-19, including at least one in Minnesota, the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Guardian report. As of Tuesday, more than 246,000 Americans have died from the novel coronavirus, the New York Times says.

The Frontline Families Fund will provide direct financial support to families of healthcare workers who have died via relief grants and a Frontline Families Scholarship Fund to support post-secondary education for their children.

The fund also has a goal of highlighting the pandemic's disproportionate impact on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) health care workers "primarily through the work" of Dr. Osterholm and American Public Media Research Lab's Color of Coronavirus project, the foundation says.

The project says it is the most robust and up-to-date portrait of COVID-19 mortality by race that's available. In its latest update on Nov. 12, it says Black and Indigenous people continue to see the greatest loss of life, with both groups experiencing a death toll exceeding 1 in 1,000.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in August said a Black person's chance of getting COVID-19 is 2.6 times higher than a white person's, while their chance for hospitalization is 4.7 times higher and their chance of death is 2.1 times higher. 

COVID-19 hospitalization and death by race/ethnicity as of Aug. 18.

COVID-19 hospitalization and death by race/ethnicity as of Aug. 18.

Due to the inequitable impact of COVID-19, the Frontline Families Fund will give priority to BIPOC families and those who have demonstrated socio-economic needs, the foundation notes.

Jeremy Wells, senior vice president of philanthropic services for the foundation, said they're honored to work with Osterholm on this relief fund.

“Mike has identified urgent needs and profound inequities created by the pandemic. We are mustering the foundation’s resources to get the fund into operation quickly, enlist additional partners and orchestrate further awareness and fundraising campaigns," Wells said. 

The foundation has also partnered with Scholarship America and The Brave of Heart Fund. 

Families in the U.S. who've lost a healthcare worker due to COVID-19 can apply to receive relief from the fund. Those eligible can access grants at the Frontline Families Fund website here

Information about scholarships will be available on the fund's website in the coming months, with plans to make them available for the 2021-22 school year. 

Those interested in donating to the Frontline Families Fund can do so here. Funds will be distributed "as quickly as possible" but at least within three months of receiving any donation, the fund's website says. 

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