The Private Sector's Heartening Response to COVID-19

Creativity and selflessness are on display everywhere.


It's easy to feel depressed and scared these days. News about the impact and death toll of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, is constant. Government responses have been chaotic, ranging from near-indifference to suddenly shutting down the economy, with politicians offering to pay for everything.

Yet we shouldn't lose sight of the exceptional vitality that the private sector is demonstrating during this mess. It will make a difference, so cheer up!

After what can only be described as a multilevel government failure that resulted in the United States having practically no coronavirus tests available for weeks after the onset of the pandemic, the private sector ramped up its production so much that we're now testing 65,000 people every day. This number is bound to grow. The tests are a crucial component of making it through this crisis, and they'll become even more accurate and deliver results faster as innovators do what they do best when they're unhindered by silly or contradictory government regulations.

Singapore's Veredus Laboratories, for example, said it will soon release "Lab-on-Chip" kits to test patients for three kinds of coronavirus within two hours. Four American startups had also launched at-home tests for COVID-19, until the Food and Drug Administration unwisely demanded they stop issuing or testing kits.

There are many other remarkable developments. For instance, only a few weeks after the beginning of this outbreak in the United States, many pharmaceutical firms worked at lightning speed to develop a vaccine. Last week, the first doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine were administered to a group of volunteers. Many companies are hard at work trying to come up with a cure. Whether it's testing old medications to figure out if they can mitigate the virus's effects or developing new drugs, the private sector is going full speed ahead to help.

Americans, especially health care professionals, need face masks. Companies nationwide are shifting resources to produce more masks. The firm 3M, for instance, announced that it "ramped up to maximum production levels of N95 respirators and doubled our global output to a rate of more than 1.1 billion per year, or nearly 100 million per month." 3M Chairman and CEO Mike Roman added that "more than 500,000 respirators are on the way from our South Dakota plant to two of the more critically impacted areas, New York and Seattle, with arrivals expected starting tomorrow. We are also ready to expedite additional shipments across the country."

What about companies that weren't in the face mask business? A group of American apparel and textile companies like Fruit of the Loom and Hanesbrands came together almost overnight to create a medical face mask supply chain to help hospitals, health care workers, and citizens battling the virus's spread. Efforts like this abound.

It gets even better. Researchers trying to understand where best to send supplies or how to mitigate outbreaks are now being helped by Facebook's disease prevention maps that display population density, demographics, and travel patterns. As George Mason University's Tyler Cowen also explains for Bloomberg, "Skype and Zoom sessions will replace many a class, and the textbook companies are stepping forward with electronic portals that present classroom materials, interactive exercises and grade student answers."

Creativity and selflessness are on display everywhere. In Canada, an anesthetist managed to turn one life-saving ventilator into nine. In Italy, a company used its 3-D printer to manufacture much-needed ventilator valves to be used in that country's overwhelmed hospitals. These entrepreneurs then created another life-saving device. As they explain in The New York Times, they modified "a snorkeling mask already on the market to create a ventilation-assisted mask for hospitals in need of additional equipment, which was successful when the hospital tested it on a patient in need."

And where I live in Virginia, a couple has been 3D-printing shields to protect N95 masks. The Washingtonian reports, "For each request received, the Filkos are covering shipping costs and sending four free masks to doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers."

Companies are indeed stepping up to help those in need. Burger King is giving out two free kids' meals to everyone who orders food through their app. U-Haul is providing one month of free storage for students displaced from their universities by the virus.

So, during these depressing times, don't underestimate human ingenuity. Just keep your eyes open, and prepare to be amazed.


NEXT: Is Preventing COVID-19 Deaths Worth a Severe Recession? The Answer Depends on Controversial Assumptions About the Epidemic's Lethality.

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  1. Good news that the media will loathe to print. Thanks.

    1. Could be better. I’m surprised that no banks have done anything to merit a mention. People and businesses will be needing loans to get them through the ordeal.

      1. I’m assuming there will be tens of millions of mortgages on hold until the debtors can resume work. The banks have access to 0% money, so they should do that, and just extend the term of the loan once they start up again.

        1. In Canada, they’re offering six months deferral to be tagged on the back end of the term .

      2. Pretty much everything a bank does is regulated by federal and state governments. The big interstate banks are regulated by the feds and 50 state governments.
        Any innovative ideas have to work their way through multiple layers of permission.

  2. Got to give a shutout to my hometown microbrewery Magnolia Brewery for switching beer production to hand sanitizer so they can keep their people employed

  3. I wonder if Mr. Quid Pro Corona will do his part and offer up his hotels to house infected Covid-19 patients when shit really hits the fan!

    1. He isn’t running them, remember?

      1. Oh yeah, I forgot. Forgive me for being so naive. Have a good day!

        1. “Oh yeah, I forgot…”

          No, you’re a fucking ignoramus. Have a miserable day, catch a horrible disease.

    2. Or, hey, maybe the Lord Thy Obama can fly in on his private jet, pen in hand to help the masses the only way he knows how; stripping them of their pre-existing healthcare by the millions and abandoning them to a broken website with nothing to show for it but crushing and illegal “penaltaxes”.

  4. Nice Post! Very informative, Thanks for the value offered here!!

  5. Of all the things reported on, the amazing response of private industry to augment our response to deal with the effects of the Wuhan coronavirus has been nothing short of miraculous. And it happens in many ways.

    One pizza shop owner here in the People’s Republic of NJ took out a 50K line of credit, kept his employees on the payroll, and told them he has sufficient funds to pay them through May. This guy is an unsung American hero. I am absolutely going to buy food from this guy the next time I am in Belmar, NJ. And I am telling every one of my friends to do the same…and why it matters.

    My bigger point. There are so many small and medium sized business owners like this guy. They give a shit about their people; they truly care. We need to hear about many, many more like him. Because they are out there quietly going about their business. They are the ones who will keep the economy afloat, and they’re the ones who will lead the charge to economic recovery.

  6. Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you
    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope some day you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one

    What is reported here is what Lennon was singing about.

    1. That is a warm, glowing, warming interpretation. To me, it’s a stridently naive and bleating yarn from a deceptively arrogant useful idiot.

    2. That talentless moron was singing about Maoism.

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  8. Not to mention politicians who take a vacation during these critical times, then return and magically pull 1400 pages of drivel from a body orifice and pretend it is related to the disease.

    1. Or the senators, who after being briefed on the oncoming disease, sold their stock holdings but didn’t warn the very people they represent.

      1. That story died quick because they all had blind trusts.

        1. Blind trusts all had excellent foresight then.

        2. IIRC, there were four senators mentioned (Burr, Feinstein, Loeffler, and Inhofe).

          The latter 3 all appear to have reasonable enough explanations that mentioning them at all pretty much looks like data mining for “did any senator sell stock?” These sales were relatively low percentages of net worth, and at least some were made by outside investment managers.

          The Burr one does look suspicious, because he apparently sold an amount of stock equal to 50% (or more) of his net worth. I haven’t heard anything specific on what he did with the proceeds, but I assume he didn’t buy other equities because they would be an easy answer for him to use to shut down the story.

  9. The media are mostly treacherous hysteria mongers and it should never be forgotten nor forgiven.

    Luckily, more and more Americans are ignoring the media’s lies.

    1. You’re dumb.

      1. Of course. The media are sober, rational, nonpartisan, calm purveyors of facts and observations.

        Said no one, ever.

  10. I just hope our benefactor Charles Koch continues to give generously to Reason and other organizations that promote open borders. But with his net worth collapsing from over $60 billion to under $50 billion I wonder how long he can keep that up. I mean, even the 13th richest person on the planet needs to feed himself.


    1. Open borders? Didn’t ya hear that Federal Troops are being marshaled to the northern border? Gotta’ keep out the infected Canadian hordes!!!

      1. That’s _godless_ Canadian hordes to you Twinkle! Did you know there are NO laws banning abortion, condoms or birth control pills there? After God’s Own Prohibitionists get through nuking Venezuela, it’s a hard rain’s a gonna fall on them free trade liberals and pot-addled libertarian canooks! Build That Wall! (and make it conscript-proof)

  11. While I found this article to be rather encouraging, I’m a little shocked by it. I thought only the government putting guns to peoples’ heads could result in people helping their fellow man? Sadly, some of these people doing the helping are going to make a profit from it…

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  13. I think we all have seen this happening. Many examples of people and companies coming together to keep things going.

    Also emotional and social support going on. I think we all have seen that in our lives. Besides phone calls, FaceTime, and Zoom other creative ways to stay in touch. Some of my wife’s friends who are getting stir crazy missing their lunch and shopping dates are starting to plan “car dates” where friends just pull up and chat in their parked cars next to each other.

    Here I see more people out walking with their kids, dogs, couples together even though it is still often chilly outside. Easy to keep distance and folks are more friendly.

    There is something to the libertarian idea that we do not need the government for everything. In fact we need it for very little.

    1. Seen a lot more people out walking around our area as well

      Hard to tell if its just because its warming up, or if its because people just aren’t watching sports, or dragging their kids out to do sports, dance, etc.

  14. See a new and better economy for a new reality being born.

    Now, if we can only keep those seeking only pillows to pad their falls from the old economy from smothering it in its crib with those same pillows.

  15. “Yet we shouldn’t lose sight of the exceptional vitality that the private sector is demonstrating during this mess. It will make a difference, so cheer up!”

    If we could keep the government from ‘helping’ us, we might be onto something.
    Given that government ‘help’ is on the way, it’s not looking good.

    1. Remember those nine most terrifying words:

      “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

      1. You don’t wish that Wuhan had a government public health department that was allowed to go to work with patient #1, and contain this thing from the beginning?

        Without freedom of speech, and an independent judiciary, the doctors, scientists and health officials of Wuhan were more worried about being escorted away in a black van than about containing a global pandemic. There is a need for both strong foundations of freedom, and a strong public health department.

  16. Selflessness is what brought us the communist dictatorship that lost control of its weaponized Communi-virus. Freedom from coercion, an individualist thing, is what enables constructive, voluntary innovation, Vero.

  17. #GetusPPE

    FFS deRugy. You could actually HELP. And instead some bullshit feel-good article?


    1. Maybe you could post something other than your PANIC!!! bullshit.

  18. Thanks for this post.. In general, I hope that scientists will find the medicine for COVID-19 and the vaccine soon.

  19. Now is a great opportunity for Reason to make a real difference:

    Publish exactly what’s in the test kits — that is, how to make your own.

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