U.S. tech companies have been donating a massive number of N95 particulate-filtering face masks to hospitals and health care workers. Holding up the old adage about no good deed going unpunished, some Americans have been lashing out at these companies.
Some of this has come in the form of hostility toward tech giants that's better suited for government officials here. And, sure, front-line workers in this pandemic shouldn't have to "rely on Silicon Valley for face masks." But the fact that Silicon Valley companies are stepping up to provide supplies we lack because of government mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak response, excessive regulations surrounding who can manufacture medical supplies, and generally poor pandemic prep from federal authorities is hardly a knock against these technology companies.
Some of the hostility has come from folks accusing tech companies of having hoarded N95 masks previously, or implying that there's something untoward about them having all these masks "just laying around."
Again, this ire is misplaced. Mask donations are coming from the likes of Facebook, Apple, Salesforce, Tesla, Flexport, Intel, and IBM, all headquartered or with operations in the Bay Area. That's an area wracked with wildfires, especially these days.
Last year, California amended health regulations to require employers in certain wildfire risk areas to provide voluntary N95 respirator masks for at-risk employees. The regulation, from California's Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, took effect in August 2019 and is set to sunset after one year.
The types of masks mandated in California are not surgical N95 masks but those that block particles of dust, smoke, and construction byproducts. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration relaxed its rules to say that the non-surgical N95 masks were allowed to be used by health care workers and medical facilities.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook's reserve of masks had been "bought in case the wildfires continued." (He also said the company is trying to source "a lot more to donate.")
Our teams at Apple have been working to help source supplies for healthcare providers fighting COVID-19. We're donating millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe. To every one of the heroes on the front lines, we thank you.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) March 21, 2020
Thank you to our Ohana for delivering our first 9000 masks to UCSF. We are working hard across all of our resources & relationships to deliver an additional 5 million masks this week plus additional critical PPE. All of us need to focus on getting PPE to our local hospitals. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/y7mgL0KhrT
— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) March 23, 2020
Do these donations come even remotely near to solving all our mask problems? No. But they still may save a lot of lives and prevent even more infections.
We're going to need private businesses big and small, state and federal authorities, charitable groups, and countless individuals to work together to get through this. Now isn't the time for the kind of reactionary, anti-markets, anti-Big Tech bias that's still too frequently coming from both the political left and right in the wake of COVID-19.
A federal stimulus package was hashed out in Congress yesterday, calling for $2 trillion in direct aid spending. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) said the package contained "unemployment compensation on steroids."
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the total price of the economic stimulus plan will be about $6 trillion, once you factor in $4 trillion in Federal Reserve loans–making it the largest economic stimulus plan approved in U.S. history.
"Ladies and gentleman, we are done," White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland said right before 1am after leaving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office following negotiations that have spanned around the clock since last Friday. "We have a deal."
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) March 25, 2020
Stay tuned for more Reason commentary on the package later today. For now, here are some thoughts from Michigan* Independent Rep. Justin Amash:
This bipartisan deal is a raw deal for the people. It does far too little for those who need the most help, while providing hundreds of billions in corporate welfare, massively growing government, inhibiting economic adaptation, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 25, 2020
And check out Billy Binion's Tuesday interview with Amash about the idea of cutting direct checks to all Americans.
Prisons and jails are releasing people incarcerated for nonviolent crimes as facilities face COVID-19 outbreaks. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to release 300 people from Rikers Island and at least 1,700 jail inmates have already been released in Los Angeles County.
"Thousands of elderly federal inmates are incarcerated in prisons that could become hothouses for COVID-19, and advocates and members of Congress say the Trump administration needs to take rapid action to get them out of harm's way," Reason's C.J. Ciaramella noted yesterday. "On Tuesday criminal justice groups and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle—not to mention inmates themselves—urged the Trump administration to use existing compassionate release policies, as well as mass clemency or executive orders, to free at-risk federal inmates."
Dozens of people, both workers& the incarcerated, have tested positive for COVID-19 on Rikers.
Many are forcibly cramped into close quarters. They do not have reliable access to soap or sanitizer. This is a humanitarian crisis.
Decarceral action must become an urgent priority. https://t.co/IDbNN3etew
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 25, 2020
Related: "Why coronavirus in jails should concern us all."
- Colorado is repealing the death penalty; Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, signed the repeal bill into law yesterday.
- A lot more young people than expected are winding up hospitalized from the COVID-19 virus.
- Want to see the economy saved? We need mass testing for COVID-19.
- "If the government won't do the right thing, organised crime will":
Gangs in the Rio de Janeiro favelas have enforced a lockdown from 8pm tonight. The statement reads: "If the government won't do the right thing, organised crime will" pic.twitter.com/dK0wtAR3KA
— Andrew Cesare (@AndrewCesare) March 23, 2020
- Prince Charles, the 71-year-old heir to England's throne, has contracted the coronavirus.
- Here come the COVID-19 truthers:
Poll: 23% of American adults say the novel coronavirus was deliberately developed in a lab. 6% say it was a lab accident. 1% say the whole thing is made up. https://t.co/NvUgu0z7Ud
— Jesse Walker (@notjessewalker) March 25, 2020
- India is on total lockdown.
- A federal rule about school lunches is putting children at risk.
- But didn't the president say China was paying for the tariffs?
Trump's government is debating whether to defer import tariffs for 3 months, sources say https://t.co/lfu4tmzRKn
— Bloomberg (@business) March 24, 2020
CORRECTION: Amash represents Michigan, not Vermont.