Today’s Monday Memo, like the news all over, is focused on the coronavirus outbreak. The stories collected in this post reflect a few aspects of the crisis as it has recently impacted local businesses, consumers, and digital search.
Apple, Patagonia, and others announce temporary closures
These are unusual times, to say the least. Echoing a theme that is playing out in schools, churches, and wherever people typically gather in significant numbers, several companies have announced the temporary closure of brick-and-mortar stores, along with work-from-home policies for white collar staff, and paid leave for hourly employees who normally work out of stores, warehouses, and factories, all in an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus.
These include Apple and Patagonia, who have both announced temporary closure of all stores -- with the exception of Apple stores in China, which had already been closed since February and have just been reopened as the number of new coronavirus cases there continues to decline. Patagonia is not only shuttering its stores until March 27 but has also temporarily ceased taking website orders. Both Apple and Patagonia will continue to pay store employees while stores are closed.
A long list of companies -- including Google, GM, Ford, AT&T, Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon, Electronic Arts, and JPMorgan -- have implemented new work-from-home policies. Internet providers Verizon, Comcast, and Charter are committing to continue serving customers who can’t pay their bills during the crisis. Google has established a COVID-19 fund to help temporary workers and vendors who are currently unable to perform their normal duties.
Walmart, Target, CVS, and Walgreens to open testing centers
The CEOs of Walgreens, Target, CVS, and Walgreens stood with President Trump in the Rose Garden on Friday, along with representatives from several healthcare companies, as the president announced a rapid increase in availability of coronavirus testing, with a target of 5 million tests being made available in the next month. The retail and pharmacy companies will aid in the testing effort by designating parking lots for drive-through testing. Taken together, the four companies operate about 16,400 locations across the country. The rollout of drive-through testing is expected to be gradual, with Walmart CEO Doug McMillon stating that new testing facilities will be opened as test availability grows.
Several states mandating closure or reduced services for restaurants
Governors of California, Ohio, Illinois, and Massachusetts are requiring restaurants, bars, nightclubs and similar businesses either to close temporarily, reduce to half capacity, or switch to take out and delivery only, in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Governor Inslee of Washington has announced restrictions that affect not only restaurants and bars but also entertainment and recreational facilities. Several cities and counties around the U.S. are implementing similar measures independently. The exact nature of the response measures differ from region to region; local government and media sites are the best resources for up-to-date news and detailed information.
Google to build coronavirus info site
Google has confirmed that it plans to build a coronavirus site in collaboration with the U.S. government. The site will provide U.S. citizens with information on symptoms and risk as well as general information about testing. In related news, Verily, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, will launch a separate site designed to direct residents of the Bay Area in California to COVID-19 testing facilities. Google-owned YouTube is also directing users who visit its home page to the latest information from CDC about COVID-19.
Google adds “Do the Five” link in effort to fight coronavirus
Google has added an icon at the bottom of its homepage that consists of a stop sign and an animated hand counting off five fingers, with the slogan, “Do the Five: Help stop coronavirus.” Clicking takes you to a public service announcement from Google and the World Health Organization urging people to do five things: wash your hands often, cough into your elbow, avoid touching your face, stay more than three feet from others, and stay home when sick. A “More info” link currently goes to the WHO’s coronavirus page.
Google My Business support may be delayed
The main Google My Business support page in Google Help Center is reporting that support requests may be delayed due to staff reductions. The notice reads, “As a precautionary health measure for our support specialists in light of COVID-19, we're operating with a limited team. Thanks for your patience, as it may take longer than usual to connect with us. For additional support, consult the Help Center.”