The challenges of reopening the economy

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Good morning.

Reopening the global economy, it turns out, is significantly harder than shutting it down. That’s why Fortune has launched a new section, How to Reopen, that takes a deep look at how countries and companies, big and small, are dealing with this unprecedented challenge. Our crack Asia team goes inside China’s reopening, looking at Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Harbin and Wuhan, birthplace of the pandemic. Jeremy Kahn surveys academic experts about the dangers of reopening too early. And our new feature, The Rebuild Program, provides U.S. small businesses a place where they can learn from others who share their challenges. You can find all our How to Reopen coverage here.

Reopening is also the topic of this week’s episode of Leadership Next. Ellen McGirt and I have a wide-ranging conversation with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who is using both his business and his philanthropy to hyperactively address the needs of the pandemic. A new set of tools called was launched by Salesforce this week to help businesses “mitigate the amount of interaction that we have with the virus” by building “apps that are going to help our workers get back to work safely.”

Benioff has been a leader in the effort to reorient business toward all stakeholders, not just shareholders. He told us that the big impetus for that change came from his employees. “My job as the CEO is to be just listening and responding to my employees,” he said. “And my customers, of course,” he added. Salesforce’s core product is customer-relationship management software.

Separately, the pandemic has caused public trust in institutions—government, business, NGOs, media—to rise this year, according to a new report out from Edelman this morning. Government enjoyed the largest rise—with double digit moves in every country save two of those measured: the U.S., where it only rose 9%, and Japan, where it fell 5%. In the U.S., the trust number reflects a strong vote of confidence in state and local governments—66%—but weaker support for the response at the federal level—46%.

More news below.

Alan Murray


Amazon protest

Amazon cloud VP Tim Bray has quit in "dismay" at the company's firing of employees who raised the alarm over Amazon's environmental record and handling of COVID-19 safety measures in warehouses. Bray wrote in a blog post that he tried to lay out his concerns through official channels, before quitting. "Remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised," he said. "I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of [the fired whistleblowers] is a person of color, a woman, or both. Right?" Fortune

Death toll

The global death toll from the COVID-19 epidemic is now more than 250,000, and there are around 3.6 million confirmed cases. Meanwhile, the U.K. has overtaken Italy to have Europe's highest death toll—and the world's highest after the U.S.—of more than 32,000. And, as a reminder that there's a lot we still don't know about recent months, it seems France had at least one coronavirus case back in December, when barely anyone had even heard of the Chinese outbreak. Al Jazeera


In a ruling that isn't about European coronavirus stimulus but will surely have some effect on it nonetheless, Germany's constitutional court has ruled that the European Central Bank's bond-buying program exceeds the ECB's mandate. On the other hand, the principle of quantitative easing doesn't violate EU rules, the court said. The euro has dropped sharply against the dollar on the news. CNBC

Antibody tests

The Food and Drug Administration has finally set rigorous standards for coronavirus antibody tests, after at least 160 new products flooded into the U.S. without prior review. The serology tests will help to ascertain the virus's spread, though none are precise enough yet to guarantee that a person has or has not yet been infected—and we don't yet know for sure what level of immunity the antibodies give us. Wall Street Journal


Venezuela allegations

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro claims his government has captured two American "mercenaries" who were involved in a plan to kill him. U.S. officials have strongly denied any connection with the operation, which also involved dozens of defectors from the Venezuelan military. The two Americans are allegedly former Green Berets. Washington Post

Pricey distancing

Frontier Airlines is going to start charging passengers extra to sit next to an unoccupied middle seat on its flights. It makes sense from the perspective of a low-cost airline with tight margins, which is going to be struggling to make money as it allows fewer passengers on its planes—but it also means charging people for essential social distancing, which is… hmm. Fortune

Supporting businesses

O'Shares ETFs chair Kevin O'Leary writes for Fortune that, when government fails businesses, communities can step up to held them thrive. He notes that crowdfunding platforms such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter reached prominence after the 2008 recession, and that "equity crowdfunding is one emerging solution that will become even more popular as businesses urgently need access to capital." Fortune

New Musk

Musical genius Grimes (Editor's note: Yes I'm a fan) has given birth to her child with Elon Musk. The boy is, according to a tweet from the father, named X Æ A-12 Musk. Elon Musk's tweets are, uh, not always to be taken at face value, but given the couple's shared oddness it is quite possible he was being serious here. Either way, mazel tov! Sky

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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