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How to survive the social isolation necessary to beat back COVID-19

March 20, 2020, 11:21 PM UTC

It’s finally Friday, readers.

Has this week felt like it’s gone on forever for you too?

I live with a few roommates in Brooklyn and their company is the only thing keeping me sane (and also, to a degree, insane!). You may have heard that multiple states including California and New York are essentially urging people to shelter in place in their homes unless absolutely necessary.

I’m a broken record on this point right now but, that’s ok, I think it’s worth saying again: it really is important to look out for each other right now. Don’t just take it from me—listen to the experts.

While we know that social distancing is critical to halting the spread of coronavirus, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this is the first time many of us have ever had to grapple with something like this. The prospect of spending weeks and months indoors is infuriating and depressing, however necessary it may be.

My heart goes out to the most vulnerable amongst us, and I hope yours does, too. I’m speaking of the homeless Americans who need our help now more than ever; the folks who can’t afford groceries and have even less contact with the humans who may help them as people remain indoors; the indigent and lonely and those who were “socially isolated”—not by choice—long before this extraordinary crisis hit.

“Public health” is one of those terms that can kind of fade into obscurity because it sounds so blasé. But the “public” aspect of it is critical. This is a collective problem. It can only be solved if we all work together. That means extending kindness and reaching out to check on other people. And thanks to today’s technology, we can, from within our isolation, connect with people we wouldn’t normally speak with.

The Fortune team’s work providing in-depth coverage of all the developments surrounding COVID-19 and coronavirus, including testing capacity, treatments, vaccines, and so much more continues.

But, in this moment on this Friday, I just want to suggest that we each keep an eye out for one another.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


Athenahealth adds COVID-19 capabilities to its arsenal. Telehealth firm Athenahealth, which offers cloud services for emergency care and creates a range of medical software, is also branching into the coronavirus fight. "We are mobilizing our ecosystem to support the health care community with real-time information, seamless integration with solutions from telehealth and lab test partners, and enhanced scheduling capabilities that reduce the burden on practice staff," said Athenahealth CEO Bob Segert in a statement. In practicality, this means that Athenahealth's technology could be used to deliver CDC-cleared advice to the company's customers about how they should be taking care of themselves during the outbreak.


Bayer to donate 3 million drug tablets in coronavirus fight. Bayer will be donating some 3 million tablets of chloroquine phosphate (which has the brand name Resochin), in association with the U.S. government, to fuel antiviral therapeutics meant to fight coronavirus. There are unanswered questions about how effective this particular therapy may be (although President Donald Trump touted the antimaralial as a cleared treatment, it has yet to be studied for treatment of COVID-19) and some questionable moves surrounding its pricing by other companies which sell a version of the treatment. 


Funerals in the time of coronavirus. My colleague Nicole Goodkind has a fascinating, if sad, foray into the state of funerals in these strange times. With social distancing measures in effect, in-person gatherings are on the decline, hugging and handshaking are discouraged, and basic traditions are seeing a major shakeup. It's a tough read, but one well worth it. (Fortune)

Americans are deeply concerned about paying their bills during the coronavirus outbreak. A new Fortune poll of nearly 3,000 Americans finds that 82% of surveyed respondents believe the current pandemic will lead to a recession. That's a sharp hike from a previous survey we did, and underscores how much public messaging from leaders can sway perceptions. For instance, just 50% of respondents were worried they or a family member would be infected with the virus last week. That number is now close to 70% amid national crackdowns. (Fortune)


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