Public Statements

An Important Update from our President and CEO, Shelley Lyford

2 min
March 18, 2020

April 22, 2020

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic is putting enormous and unprecedented strain on our entire population and placing new and significant pressures on our fragile system of healthcare and social services, and our once mighty economy.

And while no one is immune from COVID-19, the data is clear that seniors and people with underlying chronic health conditions face the greatest risk of infection and are the most vulnerable to death.

At West Health, we’ve been focused on improving the lives of seniors and their families for nearly 15 years through outcomes-based philanthropy, applied medical research, advocacy and policy work at the state and national levels. We continuously assess how to best deploy our resources to individuals and groups who need them.

But with seniors now in the crosshairs of COVID-19, we are boosting our philanthropic endeavors and providing emergency funding, resources and expertise to help older adults in San Diego get through the crisis. San Diego isn’t just where our headquarters is located, it is our home.

We’re helping local emergency departments implement telehealth services to provide care to seniors who are forced to stay at home to minimize their exposure to COVID-19. We’ve linked the EDs to several types of facilities including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, independent senior living communities and the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center in downtown San Diego. West Health is also helping to bring COVID-19 testing to facilities that serve older adults and to vulnerable seniors in shared living spaces or those living in close quarters.

Here are some other ways we’re helping:

  • Provided emergency grants to community organizations to increase the preparation and home delivery of nutritious meals to vulnerable seniors and their families
  • Helped source thousands of surgical masks, respirators, gowns and gloves for distribution to healthcare workers
  • Created the COVID-19 Resource Center to offer tools, resources, news and information for healthcare providers, community organizations, and aging advocates caring for older adults amidst the pandemic

There is so much more work to do, and West Health will not rest until we have helped as many seniors as we can and supported the thousands of courageous and tireless healthcare workers who are putting their own lives on the line to help others. While this pandemic has shaken us, it has not broken us. Rather, it’s increased our resolve to build a better health and social support system for seniors by strengthening what works and fixing what is broken. I am confident that together we will emerge smarter, stronger, and more caring than ever before.

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones and let’s all look forward to a brighter future.

Shelley Lyford


*As of this writing, the COVID-19 pandemic has infected nearly 810,000 Americans and claimed over 44,000 lives. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority of those who died were 55 years and older and those with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Shelley Lyford
CEO, Chair & Trustee, Gary and Mary West Foundation
CEO & Chair, West Health Institute