Coping with coronavirus


March 23, 2020

Thank goodness for The Ocho. On Sunday, ESPN2 got weird — competitive bratwurst eating, a tram-driving championship, and the newly hot phenomenon of marble racing. Officially, the Worldwide Leader said it was reviving ESPN8 “when you needed it most” — that is, 6 months earlier than its usual August 8th takeover (it pays homage to the 2004 movie “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.”) But we gotta ask: With the sports world benched, what will ESPN air when The Ocho’s archive eventually runs dry? Toilet paper stacking, anyone?

Coping With Coronavirus

Your coronavirus stories: High-risk jobs, difficult talks, and frightened customers

You’ve read a lot about some of the industries that have been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic. The restaurant industry is reeling. The events business is basically canceled. Airlines are grounded.

But when we asked you last week to tell us about how the pandemic affected your lives, something else became clear: It’s had an impact in practically every corner of American life.

Today, we’re highlighting a few stories from less-prominent industries, and a few from people on the front lines.

‘We sat down at the kitchen table and talked about necessities’

Katrina Bergman, 36, a cattle rancher in Ballard, Missouri

As owner/operator at Bergman’s Blest Ranch, Bergman is concerned about how fluctuations in the cattle market will affect her family’s farm. Like many ranchers, she works all year to prepare for 1 or 2 big sales. 

What she’s most worried about: All her costs — rent, land, feed, labor — are the same. “But if the market is 20 cents less than it was 2 weeks ago and I sell hundreds of thousands of pounds, it makes a huge difference to my bottom line,” Bergman said.

How her family is coping: They’re embracing self-reliance and being cautious. “We sat down at the kitchen table and talked about necessities,” she said. Simple things like sunshine also bring joy. “It has not been super warm, so I geared my little people up in old play clothes and they have gone on adventures. They go down to the creek and they get absolutely filthy.”

‘We’re going out on home visits, exposing ourselves every day’

Connie M., 38, caseworker for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services

The pandemic has forced many companies to tell their employers to work from home indefinitely. That’s not the case for Connie.

Last week, she was still seeing families and children in person — her caseload covers 50 kids and about 20 families. She says the state’s message amounted to, “You still have a job to do, go and do your job.”

What she’s most worried about: Connie says people in her department started asking, what about our families? “We’re going out on home visits,” she says, “exposing ourselves every day to something that does not have a vaccine yet.”

How she’s coping: Many caseworkers won’t admit it openly, but a lot of them are on medication to help them get by. “I might take a Xanax or I will have a drink when I get home after a stressful day… I take a shower because I always feel dirty when I get off work. And then I turn on the TV and I just sit and I do absolutely nothing.”

‘It’s nice to know that you’re doing something useful’

Hugh Wolfe, 64, a stores clerk at Mesa Airlines in Tucson, Arizona 

As Hugh Wolfe tells it, working as a stores clerk is like managing a bank for plane parts. When a plane needs repairs, the engineers call him to supply the equipment.

Wolfe’s company, Mesa Airlines, has scaled back flights, but Wolfe isn’t too worried. He’s seen airlines weather their share of crises. While at Boeing in 2002, he watched 30k workers lose their jobs after 9/11. 

What he’s most worried about: “You kind of have in the back of your mind, ‘Well, I wonder if they’re going to shut things down and send you home.’ I’ve got a job where I can’t work from home. But on the other hand we can’t really give the mechanics access to the stores department. They kind of have to keep us around.”

How he’s coping: If his job goes away, he and his wife can survive off of retirement income. For now, he’s taking solace in the work itself. “I feel like I’m providing a valuable service in that the airplane is broken, they need a part, I’m providing it. It’s nice to know that you’re doing something useful.”

‘Our customers are scared and so are we’

Gina L, 49, an assistant manager at Family Dollar in Illinois

Last Monday was not the ideal day to start a new job. But Gina needed the benefits — she went without health insurance last year. “I’m overdue for X amount of tests, just routine stuff,” she said. “I didn’t get sick, but I couldn’t afford a physical exam either.” 

At Family Dollar, Gina dove straight into the chaos. Shelves emptied soon after she re-stocked them, and customers pressed together in lines that seemed ripe for transmitting disease. When she spoke with us on Saturday, Gina had worked 5 days in a row, running on about 4 hours of sleep per night.

What she’s most worried about: She fears customers will lose their calm. “Our customers are scared and so are we. If someone at work gets sick, we’re all scrunched together so we’ll all get sick. It’s hard to put that in the back of your mind while you’re working.” 

How she’s coping: Gina finds relief in how much her coworkers have come together. Even the customers are showing kindness: “A man and woman came through and they didn’t have money, and the woman behind them paid for the pop with cash.”

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Coping With Coronavirus

How dozens of companies are navigating uncertain waters

Our Trends community on Facebook is full of entrepreneurs whose businesses have been forced to pivot in short order. Their survival is at stake.

We asked them to tell us more about how their companies have been affected by the pandemic. The news was grim, but not universally bad (see: the startup accelerator program that was built with remote connections in mind, the CBD biz whose average transaction is 3x what it was in December).

Here are a few of their best stories.

Ollie Fairweather, Nursem (skincare): “I work on a skincare brand that recently launched, which was originally developed with a group of British nurses to help combat the effects of relentless hand washing (pretty topical!). We sell hand cream and hand wash and it’s fair to say we’ve seen increased demand the last few weeks.”

Ariel Ratz, Ratz Pack Media (marketing): “A client emailed me this week that their wholesale buyers aren’t buying as much due to fears of coronavirus. In order to cut costs they are turning off their PROFITABLE FB ads with the hope of being able to start again in November. One bad wholesale month put them back months.”

Allen Walton, SpyGuy.com (ecommerce): “Sales haven’t taken a hit just yet, but we are at the point where we’re having trouble forecasting both demand and inventory. Our China factories are coming back online (skeleton crew), while South Korea never even left. I will admit I’ve been extremely hesitant to send a $50k wire, not knowing when I’ll get my inventory.”

Ben Bailey, PopColors (novelty goods): Surprisingly up, we sell novelty colored pencils with puns on them and sales have gone up about 40% over the last few days. I think a lot of people are stuck at home therapy shopping. If this shit gets worse it will probably stop though. We are also relying on Amazon and Shopify Fulfillment to keep shipping out our orders.

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Remote work is the future, and the future is now

Look, we’re all hoping for a swift end to self-quarantining, both for the health of people around the world and our own sanity. 

But, the thing is, remote work is the future — no matter what. 

Over 5 million Americans already work from home at least half the time, and 66% of knowledge workers think the office will be obsolete by 2030. 

Don’t worry, though. Working from home doesn’t mean hunching over your laptop like Gollum for the rest of your life.

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Things we like, and more resources to help you get by

If you’re in the US, you just made it through the first weekend of widespread lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders — they’re now affecting at least 1 in 5 Americans. 

You might be wondering how you’re going to make it through the next few days — let alone the next few weeks. We asked members of Team Hustle to call out a few of their favorite tools that have helped them (and their families) cope with being isolated.

Nick: The video chat app Houseparty is loads of fun, and he says it’ll help you socialize — from a safe distance. Here’s how to use it.

Trung: He bought a kettlebell 4 weeks ago, and says it’s been “incredible” for at-home workouts. Need more ideas? Check out this roundup of the best apps for working up a sweat remotely.

Adam: He says Disney Plus is “crushing it” — he’s streaming “Parent Trap, Lion King, and all the 90s classics.”

Alexe: She’s been researching small-space hacks on Pinterest and Google, her husband is playing lots of guitar, and they’re trying to teach their dog a new trick (they set him up a makeshift agility course).

Steph: The messaging app Telegram. She’s in chats with “a bunch of nomads from all over the world,” and they help her see the bigger picture beyond her own life.

Brad: He turned to comfort food and made his wife’s famous ginger cookies, then played a rousing game of “Exploding Kittens” with the kids.

Conor: Card games are back, baybeee! He’s been playing a lot of Cambio, and he couldn’t recommend it enough.

Zack: Like Ira Glass, he built a mini recording studio in his closet.

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Tweet of the Day

Rolo is the dog we need right now — Metro talked to his owner. Follow him on IG for pupdates on his recovery.

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