Mar 15 2020

Take Decisive Action to Stem Covid-19 NOW

It’s hard to keep track of all the data around the current status and potential spread of Covid-19. The data are overwhelming, there is a lot of disinformation spreading, and the data and advice from various public and private sources are changing almost hourly. It’s a scary time, and as I wrote on Friday, a time to make sure we’re staying connected, even if we’re physically distancing ourselves from each other.

But what is becoming more and more clear is that we need to be taking bolder and more decisive action to stem the spread of the virus. And we need to be doing that NOW.

Rachel Carlson, CEO of Guild Education and Ken Chenault, former CEO of AmEx and current Chairman of General Catalyst, are leading a large (and growing) group of company leaders in pushing for a more radical and decisive approach – one that involves voluntary, but significant changes in our individual behavior. You can see their full post here. Foundry has endorsed this initiative (and both Brad and I were early signers of the document). We’re encouraging out companies to do the same. If you’re so inclined you can sign the pledge to take these actions in your own business here.

My wife pointed me to a great info-graphic that The Washington Post has put together that shows the effect of being more deliberate in the actions we’re taking to avoid community contact and therefore spread of the virus. We’ve all heard the term “flatten the curve” and The Post vividly shows how this works (in this exercise, everyone eventually gets sick but the effect of staying separated massively changes the infection curve). It’s exactly what we need to be doing to allow our first responders and medical system to stay on top of the crisis. It’s also the model that was followed in Hong Kong and Singapore. The graph below shows the effect that had on the spread of the virus there vs other countries. The difference is stark.

Stopping the spread

What actions should we be taking? Here’s what we’re outlining in the Carlson/Chenault-led initiative:

– Change our corporate policies to work-from-home

– Support our nations front line work-force (first responders, doctors, nurses, etc.)

– Ask our employees and friends to stop hosting or attending any voluntary social event of ANY size

– Encourage everyone to stop patronizing bars, restaurants, and gyms (we’re working on ideas to help support our local organizations, but we have to stop putting ourselves in places where we are in close contact with other people for the time being).

– Treat ourselves and each other kindly – we’re all under a lot of pressure and stress levels are high

These actions are bolder than what our federal, state and, in most cases, local governments are requiring. But we believe government is not doing enough and that their lack of action is putting us on the steep curves of other countries who failed to implement a strong community response. We can and need to be bolder and take more decisive action. We don’t need to wait for government to require it – we can decide ourselves to do it. The graph below shows the effect of delaying to do so. Pandemics follow an exponential curve. The effect of averting a single case now vs averting one a week from now are dramatic.

Avert Now

We’re just beginning to grapple with the social, economic and emotional costs of what appears to be the most dangerous global pandemic we’ve seen in a century. We do know that we can take action now that will change the trajectory of the spread of the virus and significantly reduce the burden on our already strained medical system. Potentially millions of lives are at stake. This won’t be easy, but now is the time to take bold action.