Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

COVID-19: Let’s not let the hopeful news get lost

The COVID-19 news is so continually grim that we lose sight of the hopeful things occurring at the global, national and local levels to get control of this deadly virus.

I am, like all of you, sitting at home, trying to not only make sense of all of this, but also trying to lead the new normal or as analyst and principal at HFS Research, Phil Fersht calls it, the New Abnormal

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I'm sitting at a PC much of the day, working on varying business projects, trying to make sure that my friends and family are all safe, being supportive of friends and strangers, working with my partner and bud Brent Leary on our 11 years running show CRM Playaz and expanding the scope of it. (See some announcements at the bottom of this post on that.)

I'm also watching the news until what seems to be the relentless grimness of it all is too much and then I just blitz out and watch some of my favorite shows (happy to let you know what they are if you ask) so that I can escape.  But, yesterday, an old friend of mine, Gene Morphis, who is the former CFO of David's Bridal (that's how I met him) put out a post on Facebook that was just an aggregation of positive news and I decided to take that and run with it here – and also to add quite a bit so that you can see that this pandemic will end and we will emerge – I don't want to say better for it or not – I don't know that beyond just my normally optimistic view of the world – but we will emerge able to deal with this and at least hopefully in a better place than we came into this crisis.  Despite the amount of news that engenders mostly fear and hopelessness – even if it is true – there is also a good deal of hopefulness – and it's also true. So, that the good signals don't get lost in the grim noise, here are many of them for you to at least be aware of the end of March.  Gene's positive news is interspersed with mine.

Crisis – Medical Supplies, Testing

  1. Hockey mask manufacturer Bauer is converting its two plants- one in Quebec and the other in NY – to making protective medical shields. Manufacturing is underway with expected volume up to 50,000 per week. Since they know that demand is greater, they have published all the design and material specs online so that any other manufacturer with those capabilities can make them. Shields will be sold at cost. (From Gene)
  2. Running shoe manufacturer New Balance has converted its Massachusetts factory to make masks.  (Remember that when you buy your next pair of running shoes). (From Gene)
  3. LL Bean doing the same.
  4. Athletic apparel manufacturer Under Armour is making masks, face shields, medical fanny pakcs and looking into protective gowns.
  5. Licensed apparel manufacturer Fanatics, which makes NFL licensed jerseys, NBA jerseys, and is the official manufacturer of MLB uniforms, converted its Easton PA factory from making baseball uniforms to make protective gowns and masks. (From Gene)
  6. Jockey has reopened a plant to make Level III isolation gowns. Estimated production is 30,000-50,000 a week. (From Gene)
  7. Ford and General Electric Healthcare will start manufacturing ventilators in two locations and expects to produce 50,000 by July. (From Gene)
  8. Abbott labs has released its toaster-sized COVID-19 testing unit that can get results in between 5 and 13 minutes. Initial units will go to hospitals and first responders. Will ramp up production into hundreds of thousands of devices. (From Gene)
  9. Burberry has transformed its Yorkshire trench coat factory into making what will undoubtedly be the most fashion forward surgical gowns and masks. (Thanks to major tech influencer and diginomica co-founder and my friend, Dennis Howlett for this one)
  10. There are 588 distilleries in the United States making hand sanitizer as of yesterday according to a list on the Distilled Spirits Council website.  That's the ones that have reported it. Maybe more.
  11. Kathryn Bonesteel, the CEO of Nixie Technologies, created a Houston-based woman's organization (starting with her friends) dedicated to getting masks to the local work force that was out providing service to the Houston population. Calling it Hack Coronavirus, they collected thousands of N95 masks and got them to local government workers, first responders, Instacart delivery people, pharmacy employees, etc. and did a lot to boost morale by personally going around and handing them out. Watch the KHOU-11 video on their effort here
  12. James Dyson designed a new kind of working respirator in 10 days and will build 15,000 respirators to support the fight against the coronavirus.

Crisis – Promising Trends

  1. After 14 days of the Stay at Home order, doctors in the Bay Area (San Francisco area) are reporting that they are seeing fewer cases than they expected.
  2. South Korea who instituted non-draconian restrictions however, still strict enough, has been declining since their peak of 909 cases on Feb 29 to as of March 29  78 reported new cases. The decline has been continuous.
  3.  Kinsa Smart Thermometers fever map shows significant decline in fevers in locked down areas. Showing that Stay at Home orders and social distancing works.Here is an April 1 New York Times update on this with more detail.

Crisis – Promising Treatments & Vaccine Progress

  1. Johnson and Johnson announced today that it is so confident that it has developed a Covid-19 vaccine, that it will start construction of a plant in the U.S. to manufacturer the vaccine before obtaining FDA approval. Assuming completion of testing and approval, millions of doses of the vax will be available next spring. J&J will sell the vaccine at its cost. (From Gene)
  2. Doctor and dentist office supplier Henry Schein announced a test kit for COVID-19 antibodies is available to ship to doctors' offices and expects to manufacturer millions of test kits beginning immediately. (From Gene)
  3. Promising Broad Spectrum Anti-Viral EIDD-2801 developed at UNC Chapel Hill, NC. This is a veteran lab who presciently described a possible human outbreak of a COVID-19 like coronavirus.
  4. Remdesivir which targets SARS-COV-2 directly and already exists seems to be the most promising existing treatment for COVID-19 patients. Time will tell but the early results are good.
  5. This was really heartening though of course very early.  Lerolimab, a drug used to treat HIV and breast cancer patients was used with patients in NYC with success. Two were able to be taken off ventilators and able to leave intensive care shortly after treatment.
  6. Finally, for now, here is an overarching aggregation of the state and status of various treatments in development, existing drugs, vaccine trials etc (From OnHealth, March 26, 2020)
  7. Houston Methodist is the first U.S. hospital approved by the FDA to use transfused donated blood plasmas to critically ill COVID-19 patients. This can be a very important step in treatment.

Crisis – Tech Industry Doing Good

To be clear, the reason I'm focused on the tech industry is because that's the industry that I'm part of and am more aware of when it comes to the good that they are doing. Some of what I will mention here is repetitive. There are many others who helping through technology, but I don't have the time or room to appreciate them here – but I do appreciate them. For a good look at this, follow Bob Evans Cloud Wars. He is doing a very good job of covering the tech industry response to the COVID-19 crisis.

  1. Salesforce unsurprisingly has jumped headlong into the fray helping in many ways. They donated $3 million to UCSF COVID-19 Response Fund, The CDC Foundation's Emergency Response Fund and San Francisco's Give2SF Fund. They have created emergency response applications for healthcare systems, philanthropies small businesses, employees and customers under the umbrella name of Salesforce Cares – which for now are free (See this post by my dear friend and EVP of CRM for Salesforce, Bill Patterson).  They have promised no significant layoffs in the next 90 days to alleviate the fears of their now working at home employees and have engaged Jack Kornfeld and the Plumtree Monks among others to support those employees who are experiencing anxiety – a number they report at 36 percent.  Additionally, they've created an AppExchange COVID-19 Resource Center for their partner ecosystem to contribute to the unprecedented technological needs of the global population.
  2. ServiceNow, expert in the world of service ops have released four apps focused around emergency response management free of charge until September 30They are available here. Their partner ecosystem isn't sitting back either. A well known partner 3CLogic is providing their existing customers with a free 50 percent more seats and for new customers guaranteeing rapid response deployment in no more than 2 weeks so there is no loss of operations.
  3. Zoho, very early on, when they realized the level of threat that we were facing, created Zoho Remotely – an 11 product toolkit and solution for working at home remotely which they were giving away free until June 30. Zoho, serving a huge community of small businesses globally who are threatened with their very existence by this crisis, have responded as they always do – with compassion.
  4. SAP has focused on the work at home and logistics/supply chain disruption and has been giving away free of charge for now a broad number of their applications tailored specifically to deal with this crisis.  They range from SAP Litmos to Qualtrics Work Pulse to six months free of TripIt Pro.  For a complete list check the link above.
  5. Microsoft paying their hourly workers full wages even when their hours are reduced. This was followed by Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter and Expedia doing the same thing. Microsoft is also giving whoever wants it a six month premium Teams subscription so that they can work remotely and collaborate.  Also, as of March 10, the free version lifted the limits of the numbers of users and allow all users to schedule video conferences and calls.
  6. Oracle is providing its second generation public cloud infrastructure to research agencies who need computing power to handle a huge volume of data at high speeds. A smaller but valuable give to support the anti-viral wars, they are giving the  Workforce Health and Safety solution to all their Human Capital Management (HCM) subscribers. (Aside: I wish the human relations profession would stop calling it Human Capital Management – worst name for something involving people EVER). 
  7. Smart ring company Oura is setting up a study for 2000 frontline UCSF health care workers to see if they can develop the algorithms for early detection of the coronavirus.

Crisis – Useful Knowledge

  1. "How to understand – and report – figures for 'COVID "Deaths'" by Dr. John Lee.  Here is an article that helps you get the context and the meaning of the reports of the COVID-19 deaths – from a recently retired prominent pathologist.  It's not happy but it is clearheaded and gives you some real context. It brought me an odd sense of peace.
  2. Read this article by thought leader Denis Pombriant on anti-serum use – e.g. blood plasmas with antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients.
  3. Of course, for the most reliable information  follow the CDC and WHO
  4. One app available on the iPhone and Android (Google Play) is News Break which is doing a great job of tracking the Coronavirus news globally and locally.  I heartily recommend using it.
  5. Another one which is even more well known is NextDoor to be alert to what is going on in your city and county. This is less geared to news channels and more geared to community interaction.  Well worth downloading and installing and joining.

Crisis – The Best PSA EVER!! Make Sure You Watch

I figured that what you will see here – Larry David's PSA – might be the best PSA of any kind I ever saw.  If you have a CLUE about Larry David – and if you don't you live under a rock or were actually born under it and never left your birth home – you will totally love this. And even though it was for California, what he says applies to EVERYONE.

Now a couple of CRM Playaz Announcements:

  1. Expect to see us every Thursday at 3:00pm Eastern Time broadcast onto at least LinkedIn and Twitter and likely 3 other channels.  Watch here, and Small Business Trends and Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn for announcements on the what. The when is set.
  2. We all miss – well most of us – miss sports. So, to fill that gap, Brent and I are adding a CRM Playaz Sports Edition – Excuse the Intrusion (LOL!!) every Friday at 3pm Eastern Time.
  3. Finally, there will be a CRM Playaz happy hour that will begin next week – and this is come one, come all. There will be an Eventbrite invite posted on various social media and the first 15 or so who respond will be on the Zoom-enabled Happy Hour that week. The next 15 will be on the waiting list for the next week etc.  If we are as popular as we'd like to think we are, it probably will be a coveted event – like an Amazon/Whole Foods delivery window. Watch for the invite this week. The only price of admission is that you have to be holding a quaffable dram of liquid – doesn't have to be alcohol – in your hand for entry.  So a bottle of lens cleaner doesn't count.  You will be asked what you are drinking at the happy hour.  This happy hour is the great equalizer. There is no status that counts for any more than anyone else's.  CEO to unemployed – all the same. Its just a bunch of us getting together and shooting the breeze. One unique feature? Or at least interesting one.  If you want to talk to one or two people somewhere other than in general or about a different subject, then we will create a breakout room for you so you can have a private conversation.  Also, employers feel free to come and hire. Unemployed feel free to come and mingle and see what's there. We are cool with whatever. Again, HAPPY hour. Not just hour.

Stay safe, indoors, healthy, and stock up. 

See y'all soon.