April 24, 2020
To: All Domestic Employees
From: Pandemic Working Group
Re: COVID-19: Tracing App ~ PPP ~ Reopening Map ~ A Farmer’s Gift
UCI Tracing App
As reported in UCI News, researchers at the University of California, Irvine have developed a free, open-source smartphone application called “TrackCOVID” that permits contact tracing for potential coronavirus infections while maintaining privacy. Experts in epidemiology consistently stress the importance of tracing and tracking infected persons in order to limit contagion. The new app works like this: a business owner registers a location (let’s say a take-out pizza place) and receives a unique QR code for that location. Others who go to that location scan the QR code upon entry. As people congregate to that location, their interactions are linked together anonymously. Anyone who tests positive for the virus reports anonymously through the app, which can sense the time and date at which they were at the pizza place. By mapping interactions of all persons who checked in at that place, the app will notify other users who were present with the infected person. The more people who use the app, the more valuable it can be as a tool. As co-researcher Brandon Lehrich observed, the app could be especially useful in grocery stores and “essential” gathering places.
Paycheck Protection Drama
As many of you may recall, part of the federal government CARES Act (the COVID stimulus bill) was the provision of the Paycheck Protection Program (or PPP) which, in effect, provided potentially forgivable government loans to qualifying businesses that could certify that they were otherwise unable to meet payroll. Forgiveness was dependent, among other things, upon businesses keeping employees on their payroll. The $349 billion earmarked for this purpose was claimed in a matter of 13 days. As reported by CNN, it turns out that more than 175 public companies received over $650 million (in total) in PPP loans, including large, publicly-traded restaurant chains like Ruth’s Chris, Shake Shack and Potbelly. Facing scathing criticism from small businesses, after noting that “it is unlikely that a public company with substantial market value and access to capital markets will be able to make the required certification in good faith,” the US Treasury announced that any borrower (i.e., public company) that returned the loan full by May 7 would be deemed to have made the certification in good faith. A number of those companies, including Ruth’s Chris, have repaid their PPP loans.
A Graphic View of Reopening
Rather than forcing you to read through a list of all 50 states and the relative status of their stay-at-home orders (or lack thereof) and reopening efforts, we thought that we would give you something a little easier on the eye (as of late yesterday).
A Farmer’s Gift
On a closing note, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reports that he was touched to have received this letter from a retired farmer in his 70’s who has been sheltered-in-place with his wife (a diabetic with one lung) in Northeast Kansas. After starting with “I seriously doubt that you will ever read this letter as you are busy beyond belief,” he proceeds to enclose his last remaining (unused) N95 mask “left over from [his] farming days” and asks the governor to “please give the mask to a nurse or doctor in your city.” Enjoy your weekend.
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