On a more positive note …

good-1123013_1280Though I blogged about the coronavirus last week, and though right now you could throw a virtual stick and hit dozens of coronavirus stories, I’m going to bring it up again. But with a different spin. Crises have a habit of bringing out the best and worse in us …

… so this week I want to celebrate a few examples of the best. 

Granted, the following examples constitute not just good humanitarian moves but arguably smart PR moves. The two are not mutually exclusive, so I shall set aside cynicism for the sake of appreciation.

Businesses around the world are closing their doors to indoor transactions and canceling events, many continuing to pay suspended or sequestered employees. A partial list includes restaurants, theaters, conventions, amusement parks, and, of course, financial institutions—and a good number of them are continuing to pay furloughed or quarantined employees. Airlines and hotels are issuing refunds or allowing rescheduling at no extra charge. To be sure, some of these businesses have closed under government mandate, but others have done so voluntarily. Either way, it is a stirring statement about valuing human wellbeing over profit.

A number of banks are closing their lobbies or limiting lobby access. “Community banks and those near early clusters of coronavirus were among the first to close branches,” The Wall Street Journal’s Orla McCaffrey reports. Yet banks … 

are among the few businesses deemed essential and not subject to government-ordered shutdowns … The top three federal banking regulators reminded banks last week that short-term shutdowns are permissible when the circumstances are out of their control. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency advised banks to “provide alternative service options when possible, and reopen affected facilities when it is safe to do so.”

A number of credit card issuers—American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Barclays, Chase, Citi, and others—are rolling out programs to assist customers hard-it by not being able to go to work. Issuers like Apple have authorized customers to skip their March payment free from penalties and interest charges. And the Fed is doing its part to help out, having dropped interest rates “to a target range between 0-0.25 percent.”

Finextra reports on this brief statement from Allied Irish Banks (AIB): “In the light of the current Covid-19 outbreak AIB is suspending the planned introduction of the contactless fee.” This supports a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation, reported by PYMNTS.com, which in part says, “When possible, it would … be advisable to use contactless payments to reduce the risk of transmission.”

Beyond the banking industry, CNBC reports that professional athletes are raising money for people affected by coronavirus:

Sports agency Octagon has launched a fundraising tool Athletes for Relief to provide a place for all athletes to help support those most in need … Athletes and coaches from a dozen different sports are participating, including Stephen Curry, Shaun White, Sir Nick Faldo, Michael Phelps, Jimmie Johnson, David Ortiz and Simone Biles. The athletes are raising money for The Center for Disaster Philanthropy and fans who donate are eligible to win an item signed by the athlete.

To help seniors beat the hoarding rush, Bizjournals.com reports that Kroger is opening its stores early for seniors-only “to provide them the opportunity to shop for hard-to-get items they need during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Energy giant Dominion Energy has pledged to reconnect “residential customers whose services were shut off” and “not to shut off power for nonpayment.” Moreover, Dominion says, “We are committing $1 million to coronavirus relief efforts. The funds will support national organizations, such as the American Red Cross, as well as various local organizations.” 

Comcast, Charter, Verizon, Google, T-Mobile and Sprint have signed a pledge to keep Americans internet-connected for the next 60 days, even if people cannot afford to pay. That’s according to “50 Ways Companies Are Giving Back During The Coronavirus Pandemic,” recently published by Forbes. Here’s a paraphrased, random sampling from the remaining 49:

  • Shine Distillery in Portland is producing and giving away hand sanitizer.
  • Chef José Andrés is providing meals to quarantined cruise ship passengers and has transformed eight restaurants into community kitchens.
  • Sweetgreen is delivering free salads and bowls to hospitals.
  • Entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban pledged to reimburse employees when they buy lunch and coffee from local, independent small businesses.
  • File transfer service Meero offers free large-file transfers to facilitate remote working. 
  • &Pizza’s is offering free, unlimited pizzas to employees, their immediate families, and hospital workers, raising hourly pay by a dollar, and giving two weeks of “health and safety pay” to employees who have tested positive or may have come in contact with coronavirus. 

Not just businesses are helping out. The Guardian reportds on Avi Schiffman, a 17-year-old Seattleite who created a Covid-19 tracking website “… which provides up-to-the-minute statistics on confirmed cases, serious cases, deaths and recoveries by country.” The site has had over 12 million hits since its December debut, but Avi does not make money from it.

It’s heartening to see people rise to the challenge of helping one another—and I have not even scratched the surface of laudable examples. Want to chip in? Check out “How (and Where) to Donate Money During the Coronavirus Outbreak, courtesy of the Robb Report.

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