Alexander Karp, Co-Founder of Etha Natural Medicine
Safety first. We decide to meet electronically. Three young San Diego entrepreneurs, developing a supplement they hope will palliate some effects of the coronavirus. I want to know how they’re facing the crisis. They sound a little shell-shocked.
Monica Preston, designer and founder of a creative marketing firm: “With the current situation, I am terrified, just because of how quickly this has been spreading. For the most part, we have been at a standstill, quarantining ourselves. Even though I am younger — 33 — and not really at a high risk of fatality, I am terrified that if I get this, I’m in big trouble, because of my chronic pulmonary diseases. I am no longer working in an office setting with other people. I work at a home office, and I am not interacting with society, outside of phones and computers. I have completely avoided all contact with people in group activities for the last two weeks.”
How does she shop?
“I have a personal shopper, and I have food delivered. Just minimum contact. For myself I am very worried. On a fear scale of 10, I’m at an 8.”
Alex Karp, 36, founder of a natural medicine company: “I think there is a lot of misinformation which is driving these actions. What I’ve heard from the CDC is the idea that this is more of a winter that we’re going into, not a blizzard. We’re not prepared for this. But it spurs the importance of [the question of] how do we manage our health? I am single, and only have myself to worry about. Covid-19 is [dangerous for] people who have weaker immune systems, including the elderly, and my parents are definitely in that category. Especially when I think about my dad. He doesn’t take care of his diet and nutrition. And he doesn’t exercise as much as he could. Those risk factors are the really scary part to me.”
“Sophie,” nurse. (She asks to not use her real name). “We’re doing a lot of overtime. I work more on the insurance aspect of medications covered. But our office closed down. So I am currently working remotely, from my laptop.”
Her big complaint: “With the news media talking about the increase of death and everything, more and more people are going to panic. Unlike with MERS and SARS, this is so televised. All day, every day!”
It turns out Sophie is speaking into the conference call from the East Coast. “The company that I’m working for has banned all company-related air travel. Even back to San Diego. And it has closed its offices here. So we’re not working in the office any more, and we’re not allowed to fly anywhere. That’s it.”
But she sees a silver lining.
“I have been working in technology for a long time, working remotely a lot, and I just see this [coronavirus crisis] as being the starting point of our future where everyone says, ‘OK, we can do all our jobs online.’ Commercial office space is not affordable, and it’s usually not necessary. Office space has always been becoming extinct. This time it could be for real.”