United StatesHealth and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar acknowledged in a press conference on March 15 that the US should try to adopt some of the measures used by China to combat COVID-19, including specifically quarantining infected patients together to prevent further transmission.
While the US response remains in the early stages, the current shortages in testing capacity and overall centralized cooperation at the federal level have left the US situation more closely resembling Italy than China.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced on Sunday, March 15 that the city would be relegating restaurants to take-out and delivery services only, while bars, clubs, cinemas, and other social venues must close. In addition, New York City’s public school system, the nation’s largest with a total of 1.1 million students, will be closed as of Monday, March 16. Mayor De Blasio intends to ratify this legislation by way of executive order.
He said, “I’m very, very concerned that we see a rapid spread of this disease, and it’s time to take more dramatic measures. This is a decision I have taken with no joy and a lot of pain.” Meanwhile, New York City is attempting to rapidly transition its education system to a remote model, a challenging task as many students may not have sufficient technology to participate.
The COVID-19 pandemic has required the emergency participation and adaptations of large corporations to not only take precautionary measures, but also find innovative ways to combat the virus outbreak.
Food delivery has become an essential service to millions, and the digitization of merchants has long lagged in the United States. While Chinese platforms like Meituan Dianping and Ele.me have a plethora of restaurants on their platforms, food delivery app registration is still very scarce in the United States. Now, given the crucial nature of food delivery not only to sustain large swathes of the population, but also to provide livelihood to small businesses and employees.
Recently, DoorDash and Grubuhub made adjustments to accommodate the unique circumstances of the outbreak. DoorDash said that it would not take commission on pickup orders from independent restaurants on its platform, and any restaurants that join the platform won’t have to pay commissions for 30 days. Meanwhile, GrubHub announcedit will suspend up to $100 million in commission fees for independent restaurants.
In ride-hailing, American firms Uber and Lyft have mirrored Didi Chuxing, suspending all shared rides across their platforms in the US and key European markets. Didi has recently launched a courier delivery service, and it’s unclear whether their American counterparts are contemplating a similar strategy.
While the global pandemic will naturally shift business from the physical to the digital world, there are also changes occurring in traditional manufacturing sectors. While digital businesses will benefit from the accelerating shift towards online consumption, more traditional business will have to adjust.
“They are calling us,” President Trump exclaimed in a press conference on Sunday, extolling the volunteerism of America’s private sector. He said clothing company Hanes had called him to manufacture surgical masks while General Motors and Ford apparently called about producing ventilators, which President Trump called “a complex piece of equipment.”
Other notable private sector contributions include efforts from Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. He told Clean Technica, “We have 250,000 N95 masks. Aiming to start distributing those to hospitals tomorrow night. We should have over 1,000 ventilators by next week.” Musk also tweeted about his cooperation with Medtronic, “Just had a long engineering discussion with Medtronic about state-of-the-art ventilators. Very impressive team!”
Medtronic, based in Dublin, Ireland, announced on March 19 that they had successfully ramped up cooperation to fight COVID-19 worldwide. “We will more than double our capacity to manufacture and supply ventilators, in response to the urgent needs of patients and healthcare systems across the globe as we confront COVID-19.“
China’s private sector has also adjusted to the surge in demand for medical essentials like surgical masks. In fact, China’s total daily production capacity for masks rose to 110 million from 20 million in February, with 3,000 new entrants into the sector. Some big names who have pivoted to mask production include carmakers BYD and SAIC, iPhone assembler Foxconn and oil company Sinopec.
As the COVID-19 crisis becomes increasingly severe across the globe, economic landscapes will be significantly altered by the unique circumstances resulting from the global pandemic. We are likely to see increasing agility and cross-industry initiatives to acclimate to an environment of uncertainty.
DoorDash said Tuesday that it won’t take commissions on pickup orders from independent restaurants on its platform during the coronavirus outbreak, and that any restaurants that join the platform won’t have to pay commissions for 30 days. It follows similar moves by Grubhub last week.
Two scooter rental startups, Bird and Lime, suspended their scooter services in San Francisco. However, The Information reported that their decision seemed in direct conflict with the wishes of San Francisco transportation officials, who had deemed scooters “essential” services and thanked “all operators in advance for continuing service.”
Lyft is following Uber in suspending shared, or pooled, rides in the U.S. Uber also suspended shared rides in its key European markets of London and Paris.
Check out Amir’s story from Monday night about how Uber and Lyft could be affected by the crisis.