Another Dispatch From The Outbreak Zone

March 3, 2020 7:12 p.m.
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TPM Reader JV offers a view from white collar Seattle:

Hi Josh, thought I’d provide a few anecdotes on how corporate Seattle as a whole is handling the COVID-19 situation.

I work for a global fortune 100 company that has a major office in downtown Seattle. This morning we received notice that the Seattle office is closed for at least the rest of the week, if not longer, as at least one person had self-reported exposure to the corona virus. In the notice, leadership instructed us to work remotely for the week while the office is sanitized. Then, about an hour ago, they sent another notice stating that travel for all employees globally has been banned until at least the end of the month, and anyone currently traveling must return home as soon as possible.

My sister meanwhile works at a local company in Georgetown, an industrial neighborhood just south of downtown Seattle. They’ve preemptively closed her office for the next two weeks as well, instructing their employees to work remote. I’m hearing similar things from friends in white collar jobs around the area. My friends in the bigger tech companies (Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook) are hearing rumors they might be asked to work remotely soon as well.

It’s very bizarre to see all of this happening while we continue to hear nothing from any public officials. Like your other commenters, everyone is starting to self-diagnose (My 10 month old has a cold, and I have the beginnings of one myself…), and there’s just a general sense of uneasy anticipation while we wait for something to change. And while the white collar world starts to make up its own rules on how to handle it – which is easy enough in our line of work, since laptops and the internet exists – the retail and service and similar industries continue on.

My mom, who is in her 60s and works in a grocery store a few miles from the assisted living facility that had the outbreak, has received nothing from her store’s leadership on how they intend to handle the situation. Meanwhile, this morning someone at her store purchased the last of the hand sanitizer wearing a complete hazmat suit (seriously!).

These are strange times.

As most of you know, it’s not just Seattle. Companies across the country are restricting travel, sometimes in both directions: domestic employees can’t travel abroad, and foreign employees and visitors may not travel here. To be clear, these are individual corporate level decisions, not government decisions, and they’re of course piecemeal and scattershot.

Here’s TPM Reader SG:

You mentioned container traffic as an economic impact. Here’s another: I work for a global consulting company with over 500,000 employees. 2 days ago it was announced that all non-essential international travel is restricted, and other limitations were put on domestic travel as well. Then today my wife’s organization, a national nonprofit with operations in all 50 states, has also eliminated all non-essential travel for the month of March.
I can only imagine other businesses and organizations are taking similar measures around the world. The impact will be felt by airlines, hotels, conventions, etc. I think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg regarding economic impacts.

Friends and acquaintances of mine are dealing with totally upended international travel plans, for business and pleasure, not just in February and March, but now into April and deeper into the year, with no clear sign of when normal will return.

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.

COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).

IHME Projections Site (COVID-19 epidemic model which has become the canonical model for many states and hospitals.)

Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world). (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).

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