You feel easily depressed and scared these days. News about the impact and death toll of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, is constant. The government’s reactions were chaotic, ranging from near indifference to sudden economic shutdown, with politicians willing to pay for everything.
However, we must not lose sight of the exceptional vitality of the private sector in this mess. It will make a difference, so cheer up!
After what can only be described as a multilevel government failure that resulted in the United States having practically no coronavirus testing available weeks after the pandemic began, the private sector has ramped up production to the point where we now employ 65,000 people. to test every day. This number is sure to grow. The tests are a critical part of surviving this crisis, and they will become even more accurate and deliver results faster, as innovators do what they do best if they are not hindered by silly or conflicting government rules.
For example, Veredus Laboratories in Singapore said it will soon release “Lab-on-Chip” kits to test patients for three types of coronavirus within two hours. Four US startups had also launched home tests for COVID-19, until the Food and Drug Administration unwisely demanded that they stop issuing or testing kits.
There are many other notable developments. For example, just weeks after the onset of this outbreak in the United States, many pharmaceutical companies were working at breakneck speed to develop a vaccine. Last week, the first doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine were administered to a group of volunteers. Many companies are working hard to come up with a remedy. Whether it’s testing old drugs to find out if they can mitigate the effects of the virus or develop new ones, the private sector is in full swing to help.
Americans, especially health professionals, need face masks. National companies are shifting resources to produce more masks. For example, 3M announced that it has “increased the maximum production levels of N95 respirators and doubled our global production to a rate of more than 1.1 billion per year, or nearly 100 million per month.” Mike Roman, 3M Chairman and CEO, added that “more than 500,000 respirators are on the way from our South Dakota facility to two of the hardest hit areas, New York and Seattle, with expected arrivals starting tomorrow. We are also ready to accelerate additional shipments across the country. “
What about companies that didn’t deal with face masks? A group of U.S. apparel and textile companies such as Fruit of the Loom and Hanesbrands came together almost overnight to create a medical face mask supply chain to help hospitals, health professionals, and citizens fight the spread of the virus. Such efforts are plentiful.
It gets even better. Researchers trying to understand where best to send gear or how to reduce outbreaks are now aided by Facebook’s disease prevention maps that show population density, demographics, and travel patterns. As George Mason University’s Tyler Cowen also explains for Bloomberg, “Skype and zoom sessions will replace many a class, and the textbook companies are moving forward with electronic portals of teaching materials, interactive exercises and student-student responses.”
Creativity and selflessness can be seen everywhere. In Canada, an anesthetist has managed to make a nine out of one life-saving ventilator. In Italy, a company used its 3D printer to produce much-needed ventilation valves for use in that country’s overwhelmed hospitals. These entrepreneurs then created another life-saving device. As they explain The New York Times, they adapted “a snorkel mask already on the market to create a respirator for hospitals that require additional equipment, which was successful when the hospital tested it on a patient in need.”
And where I live in Virginia has been a few 3D printing shields to protect N95 masks. The Washingtonian reports: “For each request received, the Filkos cover shipping costs and send four free masks to doctors, nurses and other health professionals.”
Indeed, companies do their best to help those in need. Burger King hands out two free kids meals to anyone who orders food through their app. U-Haul offers a month of free storage for students expelled from their university by the virus.
So do not underestimate human ingenuity in these depressing times. Just keep your eyes open and prepare to be amazed.
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