There is certainly no shortage of worry right now. And it would be easy to just give you a bulleted list of the closures and cancellations, projections and grey particulars of pandemic life.
But today we’d rather focus on the bright spots of hope. They’re there if you look. From Italians in quarantine singing on balconies to viral acts of kindness, people are reaching out even as they create distance.
This week, we take a look at how tech is rising to the challenge in these surreally strange times.
Earlier this month Facebook began inserting a box into the news feed, directing users to the Centers for Disease Control’s page about COVID-19. While this seems like a small change, remember that 67% of Americans get most of their news directly from Facebook. Facebook has also declared the WHO will be given unlimited ad space to combat COVID-19 disinformation on its platform.
Twitter is implementing similar measures, along with instructing their entire, 4,900 person workforce to stay home for the foreseeable future.
Google has taken slightly slower action, but there’s no denying that now that they’re on board, they’re knocking it out of the park:
Google searches related to the virus now trigger an “SOS Alert,” with news from mainstream publications including National Public Radio, followed by information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization displayed prominently. In contrast, a recent search for “flu season” showed the website verywellhealth.com at the top, while another search for “flu” produced tweets, including one from U.S. President Donald Trump comparing coronavirus to the common flu. […]
Google is also quickly removing any YouTube videos that claim to be a replacement for medical treatment, as well as banning apps related to the virus on Google Play.
It’s impossible to wipe out every bit of false information, but it’s encouraging to see these platforms taking such decisive action against it.
On Sunday night, Google parent company Alphabet’s biotech concern Verily launched a pilot COVID-19 screening and testing website in the San Francisco Bay area.
The site is a collaboration between Verily and state and federal offices, and will scale nationwide as soon as the notoriously hard-to-find testing kits become available.
At a press conference for the launch, California Governor Gavin Newsom said state officials hope the website launch will “[bring] to market the capacity for individuals that have developed mild symptoms or are concerned, being seniors or at higher risk.”
It’s no secret we have a worrying shortage of testing kits in the US, and to address that, Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma is donating a staggering 500,000 test kits (and one million face masks) to the cause.
In a statement Friday he said: "Drawing from my own country’s experience, speedy and accurate testing and adequate personal protective equipment for medical professionals are most effective in preventing the spread of the virus. We hope that our donation can help Americans fight against the pandemic!"
This is following Ma’s donation of one million masks to Japan as of March 2nd and his continued attempt to ship one million masks to Iran. In a March 11 post, he wrote that 1.8 million masks and 100,000 testing kits would go to Europe. He also expressed his intention to donate to Italy and Spain, two other countries ravaged by COVID-19 as well.
Distributed Teams FTW
We’ve been a fully distributed company since our inception, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. But imagine you’ve been schlepping to an office every day for ten years and suddenly you get the dubious pleasure of WFH. Sure, it’s quarantine and that’s terrible but working from home is great!
What happens when the danger passes (and it will) and you’re expected to (shudder) commute again?
Necessity is the mother of invention, they say, and in this case, pandemic might be the mother of your job finally letting you work from your sofa. Matt Mullenweg, chief executive of WordPress and Tumblr says, “This is not how I envisioned the distributed work revolution taking hold.” But, he predicts, “[m]illions of people will get the chance to experience days without long commutes, or the harsh inflexibility of not being able to stay close to home when a family member is sick… This might be a chance for a great reset in terms of how we work.”
There’s no silver lining to a pandemic. But there are bright spots in the dark. And there are helpers working day and night to get all of us through this. Stay home, stay safe, and stay hopeful.