After what appeared to be a confused and disjointed effort, the Trump administration officially recognized the seriousness of the coronavirus from China. On Friday, March 13, the President announced a national emergency. This move will free up $50 billion in additional funding, which should help accelerate virus testing and care.
In my opinion, it’s the type of leadership that’s necessary to contain the coronavirus. Further, I’m glad that we’re officially moving away from the “it’s just a flu” narrative. This rapidly spreading disease labeled Covid-19 is serious stuff. Diminishing its severity — or worse, making light of it — won’t address the problem. Indeed, it could make things worse.
One of the issues that I have with treating the coronavirus like any other infectious disease is that it’s an additive threat. Suppose you were stranded in the middle of the ocean. If you’re like most people, you’d worry about a shark attack. Would you be placated if someone told you what you really should worry about is dehydration?
Yes, dehydration is a serious threat under such circumstances. But to my knowledge, a shark won’t deliberately avoid you simply because you’re not thinking about it, but instead, worrying about other things. So it is with the coronavirus.
However, this is not the time to go crazy. If you’re one of the unlucky people to have not bought toilet paper, you know full well that panic, not necessarily Covid-19, is the bigger danger. Fortunately, if we can all keep a cool head, we’ll get through this together.
Here are some basic do’s and don’ts for business professionals to avoiding the coronavirus.
Do: Social Distancing
Unless you’ve already entered your doomsday bunker and cut yourself off from civilization, you’ve undoubtedly heard of “social distancing.” Quickly becoming the buzzword of the month — and presumably for as long as it takes to fight Covid-19 — social distancing is exactly what it sounds like: keeping your distance from other people.
Especially, many parents of young children have taken social distancing to heart. As walking bundles of joy and germs in the best of circumstances, the young are very liable to pick up some microbiological nastiness. If there’s one silver living of the coronavirus, this is it: parents are now more active in maintaining order and teaching basic preventative measures at an early age.
Hopefully, these lessons will continue to stick long after Covid-19 is gone.
Do: Treat Work-from-Home Seriously
With multiple cloud communications platforms like Slack Technologies (NYSE:WORK) making working from home easier than ever, it’s time to broach the subject — if your boss hasn’t already proposed it. As more people get infected with the virus, the risk-reward balance for businesses begins to tilt favorably toward telecommunications.
Particularly, this is the case with companies doing business in hard-hit areas. For instance, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) recently sent guidance to its global employees, permitting anyone to work from home if they can. I’m not 100% sure what this move will do for AMZN stock. Nevertheless, it’s great PR for a company that hasn’t seen much of it.
Still, a word of warning.
If you’re lucky enough to work from home, treat it seriously. Don’t use it as a time to slack off. Remember that if we enter a worst-case scenario, companies will start laying off employees. Playing hooky can cost you dearly.
Do: Make Temporary Life Adjustments
By now, countless government officials and politicians have urged you to not let the coronavirus impact your life. Other than taking basic precautions, you should live life how you normally do.
Of course, the cynical side of me realizes that these folks live very privileged lives, often not in reality. For those that are part of the daily grind called the “real world,” I think making temporary adjustments is prudent.
This doesn’t have to involve over-the-top changes. Rather, some simple variances can lead to big results. For instance, if you’re someone who likes to grocery shop during busy weekdays, perhaps online shopping — or visiting during non-peak hours — is best for now.
Moreover, if you’re one of those café java drinkers, consider making your brew at home. Combining people’s presence along with food and beverages is not ideal at the moment.
Do: Keep the Coronavirus in Perspective
As I mentioned above, it’s not necessarily Covid-19 that’s the biggest concern for our nation. Instead, it’s the unwarranted level of panic. Yes, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relayed, in a worst-case scenario, millions could be infected and die.
But will such a dire scenario play out? Bluntly speaking, it could.
Unfortunately, panicked individuals could flood the already strained U.S. healthcare system, preventing people who succumbed to those other things we should be worried about — the “regular” flu, car accidents, heart disease, etc. — from receiving care.
That could easily add up to millions dead.
However, the one positive is that we control our own destiny. One way we could better accomplish this is if we all realize that we’ve endured worse. According to a Reuters report, the H1N1 pandemic infected between 41 million to 84 million Americans between April 2009 and January 2010. Among these cases, 17,000 turned into fatalities.
Despite this horror, we didn’t turn on each other because some people looked different from us. Further, we allowed our neighbors to wipe themselves without fear of supply constraints.
So, keep things in perspective and for goodness sake, let’s do better than this, America!
Do: Buy the Dips (Carefully)
If you’re optimistic about your fellow Americans, then you may want to consider buying equities that are heavily discounted. Even if the coronavirus turns into a modern black plague, eventually, societies emerge from tragedies.
One idea is to consider so-called recession-proof stocks. These include stalwarts in essential industries, such as Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) and Waste Management (NYSE:WM). Coronavirus or not, people will need their medicine and their toilet paper. That’s why I’m long-term bullish on JNJ stock as well as PG.
Plus, someone has to throw away the trash. This drives the case for WM stock.
However, I’d like to add a word of caution. Since the coronavirus has also evolved into an economic threat (thanks to the mass panic), keep the powder keg dry. The volatility that we saw may not be the end of it.
It’s simple advice that you’ve heard hundreds of times now. Nevertheless, it bears repeating: please don’t panic.
Panic doesn’t do anyone any good. It won’t magically materialize the goods that you’re seeking. Nor will it make your troubles go away. In fact, it might make things worse as your heightened emotional state throws you into situations you ordinarily wouldn’t find yourself in.
Now, these are obvious statements. But why you may not want to throw a hissy fit at this time is that panic and associated emotions, such as stress and anxiety, can weaken your immune system if left unchecked. When a pandemic is going around, that’s the last thing you need.
Don’t: Be a Vulture Capitalist
Over the weekend, the New York Times shared one of the most disgusting stories of opportunism that I’ve ever heard. A former U.S. Air Force technical sergeant started hoarding essential goods before the coronavirus panic set in. He made ridiculous profits before Amazon shut down price gougers and other bad actors from its platform.
Now, he doesn’t know what to do with the nearly 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizers he hoarded.
Bluntly speaking, those who serve this nation shouldn’t dishonor it by exploiting Americans in their hour of need. But that’s just my opinion.
Unfortunately for the vulture capitalists, Amazon is out to get these dirtbags. In a statement, the e-commerce welcomes “the opportunity to work directly with states attorneys general to prosecute bad actors.”
Bottom line: don’t be a vulture capitalist. If you’re a retail distributor, continue to operate with honesty. If you don’t, you’ll have customers with hard feelings at best. At worst, it could put you in serious legal trouble.
Don’t: Stigmatize Others
I get it. You want to go out and enjoy life, but you can’t because of the impact of the coronavirus. Or, you may be one of millions of small businesses that are suffering from a dramatic reduction in revenues. At times like these, it’s human nature to seek a scapegoat and unleash hell.
If you don’t believe me, check out how Chicago Bears fans responded to Cody Parkey’s missed field goal attempt.
Now, football is one thing. Unfortunately, an alarming number of people are venting their frustration against people of Asian descent. I cannot stress this enough: if you commit a discriminatory act, you can likely kiss your job goodbye, especially in this present “cancel culture.”
Honestly, I’d just stay away from social media if you can. In this heightened environment, a misconstrued post can give you more than you bargained for.
Don’t: Travel Because It’s Cheap
Logically, one of the worst-hit industries is the travel sector. From cruise liners to airliners, their shares have plummeted sickeningly in the markets. In response, airfares in particular have dropped to ridiculously low levels. Yet even with the busy summer season coming up, most travelers are “fearful at any price.”
But not everyone shares this sentiment. According to Business Insider, some millennials are jumping at the chance to go on vacation for cheap. On one hand, with the coronavirus not targeting the young as it does older people with underlying health conditions, this might be the ultimate contrarian move. But on the other hand, it’s not the virus but the people that we should be worried about.
That’s especially true regarding people in power. As you know, the Trump administration issued a Europe travel ban. Recently, this ban has been extended to include the U.K. and Ireland. Should the virus progress further, we could easily see retaliatory travel bans or limitations.
Basically, the logistical variables and headaches are not worth it for many people. And I haven’t even talked about the risk of getting the coronavirus from a confined area!
Don’t: Engage in Risky Behaviors
Another conspicuous impact of the coronavirus is that we can’t watch sports. To mitigate the spread of Covid-19, many professional sports leagues have suspended operations. Of course, it’s a smart move but it stinks for the fans.
However, we can also learn an important lesson. As I’ve alluded to multiple times, the actual dangers of the coronavirus don’t matter. If people assume it’s the worst thing ever, the overall impact is just the same: mass pandemonium and a chokehold of vital medical supply chains and the broader healthcare system.
In order to not put yourself in such a situation, you may want to avoid risky behaviors. For example, your mountain climbing routine can wait a few months. Should you get injured, you might not have a hospital bed waiting for you.
Even if you’re one of the lucky ones, you’re occupying a bed that someone else might need more than you. In these times, any act of selflessness can go a long way.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.