Salesforce billionaire helps arrange $2M mask donation to Hawaii island

Kona hospital workers in May, 2020, welcome a shipment of masks from billionaire Marc Benioff. Courtesy: Benioff’s Twitter page

A billionaire tech entrepreneur with a home on Hawaii island has coordinated a donation of 1 million face masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus there.

Salesforce CEO and founder Marc Benioff helped arrange the estimated $1.9 million donation to Hawaii County Civil Defense, West Hawaii Today reported Sunday.

The donation was made by the University of California at San Francisco, which is home to The Benioff Center for Microbiome Medicine.

Benioff, whose fortune was estimated last year at $6 billion, oversees a $130 billion software empire based in San Francisco.

The masks are expected to be shipped in weekly installments of about 70,000 each for public distribution at COVID-19 testing sites and other venues.

“It’s not to every island, it’s not to every state,” Hawaii County Council Finance Director Deanna Sako said. “It’s to us and we’re very thankful.”

Mayor Harry Kim has said Benioff is a member of his COVID-19 working group.

The philanthropist provided resources, staff and a working plan to make the Big Island a template for getting ahead of the pandemic, Kim said.

Kim said he told Benioff the island’s residents could not afford the effort without his assistance.

“What a gift for the people of Hawaii Island,” Kim said. “I told him how fortunate and how grateful I am that he is part of our team.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.