Discussion #2

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Discussion #2

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Do Discussion #2 over your choice of the following two cases studies:

Option A: Case Study #3: “Searching for the ‘New Normal’: The Business Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020″ (page 467) 

Be sure you have read the instructions and the grading rubric. (I won’t remind you of this again. By now you should know.)

  ***Answer the 7 questions with detail of your choice:   (Page 174, Table 6.3)

Table 6.3 Systematic Rational Ethical Decision-Making Process

Step 1: Write the decision options in the appropriate column below.

Step 2: Apply the seven systematic rational ethical decision-making process questions to the decision under
consideration to obtain relevant ethical information.

Step 3: Insert the ethical strength and weakness revealed by each of the seven ethical questions in the appropriate
column below.

Step 4: Given the strengths and weaknesses, choose a decision option, explain why that option was chosen rather
than the alternative options, and determine how to manage the weaknesses associated with the option chosen.

1. Who are the people affected by the action? (stakeholder analysis)

1. What option benefits me the most? (egoism)

1. What option does my social group support? (social group relativism)

1. What option is legal? (cultural relativism)

1. What option is the greatest good for the greatest number of people affected? (utilitarianism)

1. What option is based on truthfulness and respect/integrity toward each stakeholder? (deontology)

1. What option would a virtuous person of high moral character do? (virtue ethics)

Note:

If answers to Questions 2 through 7 are all the same option, then do that option.

If answers to Questions 2 through 7 are mixed, then:

If answers to Questions 5, 6, and 7 are the same option, this option is the most ethical. But you may need
to modify this decision in consideration of answers to Questions 2 through 4, or weaknesses associated
with Questions 5 through 7.

If answers to Questions 5, 6, and 7 are mixed, then there is no clear “most ethical” response, and you
should make your decision by carefully considering the strengths and weaknesses of Questions 2 through
7.

Option and Its Underlying Value Option Strengths Based on
Application of Ethical Theories

Option Weaknesses Based on
Application of Ethical Theories

#1:

#2:

#3:

Option Chosen

Chosen Because

How Will You Manage Chosen
Option? Weaknesses?

Searching for the “New Normal”: The Business Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020

Searching for the “new normal”: The business response to the covid-19 pandemic of 2020

467

478

3 SEARCHING FOR THE “NEW NORMAL”: THE BUSINESS RESPONSE
TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC OF 2020

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHIES
Tara J. Radin is a consultant and educator who has spent the past 20 years teaching undergraduate and graduate
business ethics, law, corporate governance, and strategy at schools including the Wharton School at the University of
Pennsylvania, the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, and the School of Business at George
Washington University. Her research encompasses employment, global labor practices, stakeholder thinking, and other
issues at the intersection of ethics and law.

Dahlia B. Rehg is a principal at Cipher Learning Tools, a small company dedicated to creating innovative pedagogical
tools for live and virtual case-based instruction. An engineer by training, she has since transitioned into marketing,
education, and mentorship through positions as director of marketing, MBA admissions consultant, and talent acquisition
specialist.

CASE OVERVIEW
What constitutes a business ethics issue has clearly evolved generation by generation. As society begins to tackle one
problem, others come to light. Combatting financial fraud was, for example, at the forefront of the 1980s and 1990s;
environmental sustainability has been on center stage since about 2000. Although the global coronavirus pandemic of
2020 represents a new issue for modern society, traditional tools—such as moral philosophy and stakeholder thinking—
continue to provide valuable anchors upon which managers can rely in deciding what to do. The ongoing applicability of
such tools, regardless of the specific issues being addressed, reinforces the importance and relevance of business ethics
in managerial decision-making.

OVERVIEW
What would you do if you were a public official responsible for a community where a highly contagious virus had suddenly
been discovered, a virus transmitted person to person, typically through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or
just talking. This virus is so contagious that it spreads exponentially; in other words, if each person spreads it to just three
others, the first person who contracts the disease passes it to three others, who then pass it to three others, and so on. It is
not long before that first case goes from 1 to 4 to 10 to 28 to 82. Although the mortality rate is low, people can and do die
from the disease caused by this virus; you know this because of the death tolls experienced in other communities. What
would you do to protect your citizens?

This is not a hypothetical question; this was the question confronted by public officials around the world in spring 2020. In
the United States, the vast majority of governors shut down their economies in an attempt to contain the spread of the
disease. Businesses have responded in a variety of ways.

This case study examines the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on business in the United States and explores the ways in
which businesses have reacted. While not every business will have a happy ending, there are many positive lessons that
can be learned about flexibility, adaptability, and resiliency.

COVID-19
The year 2020 witnessed a global pandemic that ravaged the world. The culprit? Covid-19. Covid-19 belongs to a family of
viruses called coronaviruses. There are many types of coronaviruses; some cause only mild to moderate respiratory
infections like the common cold while others have resulted in devastating situations such as the severe acute respiratory
syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002–2003 and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak in South Korea in
2015. The novel coronavirus, Covid-19, emerged in China in late fall or early winter 2019. It manifested as a respiratory
illness accompanied by a variety of symptoms including a cough, fever, shortness of breath, breathing difficulty, fatigue,
and muscle or body aches. It was considered highly contagious; communities experienced exponential growth rates of
infections. Four cases of Covid-19 were reported in central China in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province and a large city

of 11 million people. All four cases were linked to the Huanan (Southern China) Seafood Wholesale Market.1 By the end of
January, China reported 9,720 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 15,238 suspected cases, and 213 deaths. In addition, there

were 106 confirmed cases in 19 other countries.2

Italy was the first country in Europe to be devasted by Covid-19. In less than 3 weeks, the novel coronavirus overloaded
the health care system in northern Italy. Confronting shortages of hospital beds and ventilators, doctors were unable to
treat all Covid-19 patients; elderly patients were left to die without being treated: “A nurse collapsed with her mask on, her

photograph becoming a symbol of overwhelmed medical staff.”3 It was at this time, in late February, that universities

announced they were bringing students home from study-abroad programs in Italy.4

It is believed that Covid-19 arrived in the United States in late January 2020. As elsewhere, the growth rate of infections
was exponential (see Figure 1). In the face of such explosive growth, health experts warned of the necessity of slowing the
growth rate and flattening the curve. The fear was that hospitals would be overwhelmed, as they had been in Italy and
elsewhere, and that would lead to an increased number of deaths.

Description

Figure 1 Early Growth in U.S. Covid-19 Cases

Source: CDC

By late February, it was apparent that sustained community transmission of Covid-19 had occurred, particularly on the

West Coast.5 Washington state reported the first death in the United States linked to Covid-19 on February 29, 2020. A
single nursing home in that state reported that approximately 27 of 108 residents and 25 of 108 staff members exhibited

symptoms of Covid-19.6 In early March, government officials in Washington and California warned vulnerable residents to
avoid unnecessary outings and interaction in large groups. By March 16, six California counties became the first in the
country to enact shelter-in-place orders; on March 19, the state of California mandated a statewide shelter-in-place order.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed a similar order for New York on March 20, the “New York State on Pause” executive
order. The vast majority of states followed suit by passing similar stay-at-home orders.

SHUTDOWN ORDERS
Beginning in March 2020, nonessential businesses shut down across the United States. In virtually unprecedented moves,
governors in all but four states (Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota) issued stay-at-home orders. The majority
were statewide; a handful were regional or only advisory. Hospitals, grocery stores, “big box” stores, and other businesses
deemed “essential” were allowed to stay open, many with restrictions such as reduced hours and limited in-store capacity.
In some states, even the types of product that could be purchased were limited; clothing, toys, and electronics, for

example, were not considered allowable purchases during the shutdown.7

The passage of such orders meant that the economy in the United Sates was effectively shut down. While essential
businesses such as grocery stores, hardware stores, and discount stores remained open, general retail and other
nonessential businesses were forced to close. As elsewhere in the world, people were sent home and asked to stay there.

It was widely understood that this virtually unprecedented step was taken because of the serious threat to human life. The
United States was haunted by the many images of dead bodies littering the streets in Italy, because there was not even
room in the morgues. If Covid-19 was not contained, more and more people would die, not only because of the disease but
because of the lack of available health care resources (e.g., hospital beds and ventilators). Particularly since Covid-19 was
highly contagious, even from people who were not symptomatic, it was commonly believed by health experts that the only
way to slow down the spread of Covid-19 was to create distance between people. Shutting down the economy was viewed
as necessary to accomplish this feat. Although the shutdown of business was mandated, it is interesting to explore how
businesses chose to respond to these extraordinary circumstances.

Impact on Business

As the economy closed, businesses responded in a variety of ways. Businesses that could accommodate nontraditional
work arrangements moved quickly to transition their brick-and-mortar workplaces to telework. But telework was not always
an option, particularly in service industries such as retail and hospitality. Some businesses in those sectors were not so
fortunate; the pandemic created serious financial hardship for some retailers that were already struggling. Neiman Marcus
and J. Crew filed for bankruptcy in May 2020. Gold’s Gym also filed for bankruptcy in May with plans to permanently close
approximately 30 company-owned locations. Pier 1 shuttered all its stores permanently in May 2020 and entered

liquidation.8 Analysts warned that the retail industry would likely suffer a lasting legacy of fewer department stores because

of the pandemic.9

BUSINESS RESPONSE 1: SHARING THE COST WITH EMPLOYEES AND
OTHER STAKEHOLDERS
A common response by businesses was to shift the cost of the pandemic as much as possible away from the business and
to share that cost with stakeholders such as employees and landlords. To curb expenses in the absence of income,
numerous retail chains immediately furloughed workers, a temporary layoff. Gap, Macy’s, and Kohl’s, for example, notified

store associates almost immediately that they would be furloughed indefinitely.10 By May, more than half of retailers
announced furloughs.

Furloughs were not enough for some companies. The Cheesecake Factory, a popular restaurant chain operating more
than 200 full-service restaurants in the United States, announced on March 18 that April rent would not be paid by any of
its locations. According to chairman and CEO David Overton, “We are sincerely concerned for everyone who has been
impacted by the coronavirus (Covid-19)…. This situation is unprecedented and rapidly evolving. The severe decrease in
restaurant traffic has severely decreased our cash flow and inflicted a tremendous financial blow to our business. Due to
these extraordinary events, … I must let you know that The Cheesecake Factory and its affiliated restaurant concepts will

not make any of their rent payments for the month of April 2020.”11 Office supply chain Staples communicated a similar
unilateral decision not to pay rent, even though Staples remained open as an essential service.

BUSINESS RESPONSE 2: PUTTING STAKEHOLDERS FIRST
Other companies, however, stood out for making the decision not to furlough workers or stop paying their bills and instead
chose to bear the cost of the pandemic themselves. PepsiCo, for example, continued to pay employees who were unable
to work because of Covid-19 and offered additional assistance to employees affected by the disease. According to Patrick
McLaughlin, chief human resources officer of PepsiCo Foods North America, employees “are the backbone of our
company.” PepsiCo decided to continue paying any employee who was unable to work from home but had to care for a

child who could not go to school or day care at least two-thirds of his or her pay for up to 12 weeks.12

A number of retail stores, including Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, Bath & Body Works, Adidas, Ulta, and

DSW continued to pay sales associates even though stores were closed.13 Such retailers decided to bear the cost of the
pandemic themselves. The Nordstrom leadership team went a step further in absorbing some of the cost themselves. The
executive leadership group decided to forgo a portion of their salary from April through September; CEO Erik Nordstrom

and chief brand officer Peter Nordstrom decided not to take any salary during that time.14

BUSINESSES AND FRONTLINE WORKERS
Many businesses paid special attention to frontline workers. Frontline workers are those employees who work in essential
industries who physically had to show up to work during the pandemic. This category not only includes health care
professionals and protective service workers but also captures grocery store employees, truck drivers, transit personnel,
and so on. These workers typically earn lower wages on average and are more likely to come from socioeconomically

disadvantaged groups than the overall workforce.15

Recognizing the tremendous service of frontline workers at a time when they were required to work, even though most
other workers were required to stay at home, a number of companies decided to pay special bonuses, hazard pay, or
“hero’s pay” to these workers. On March 21, Kroger, for example, announced one-time bonuses to be paid to both hourly
and full-time associates. On March 31, the company added a $2-per-hour wage increase, additional emergency paid leave,

new workplace safety measures, and other critical worker protections.16 Retailers like Target, Whole Foods, Amazon, and
the Texas grocery store chain H-E-B also offered $2 per hour “hero’s pay” raises to their frontline workers.

Other companies also reached out with support for frontline workers. Businesses such as Goldbelly and Sweetgreen
donated meals and boxes of food to these workers. And health care workers could specifically request free burritos for their

medical facilities from Chipotle.17 The list goes on and on but is not limited to food. Nike donated more than 32,000 pairs of

shoes specially designed for medical personnel.18 In Madison, Wisconsin, a local tech giant even donated office space.
Epic Systems donated its former headquarters so that it could be turned into a childcare center specifically for kids whose
parents were at local hospitals treating patients with Covid-19. “We used it as an office space for about 15 years,” said
Sverre Roang with Epic Systems. “This was originally a school, so it’s kind of going back to the original use of the

building.”19

BUSINESS AND OTHER STAKEHOLDERS

Treatment of other stakeholders was mixed. There was little consistency with regard to who was expected to bear the cost
of canceled events, for example. Many wedding venues refused to refund deposits; others tried to be creative in offering
gift cards toward future events. Live Nation, the global concert giant that owns Ticketmaster, initially refused to refund
tickets to events that were canceled or postponed because of the pandemic. In the wake of numerous customer
complaints, though, the company did announce in late April a program through which it automatically issued refunds for
canceled shows and gave patrons the option to apply the refund as a 150% credit toward future events. “When you choose
this option, Live Nation will also donate tickets to healthcare workers to share the gift of live with those working on the front
line through our Hero Nation program” the company said. “We will donate one ticket for every ticket you originally

purchased.”20

Although some companies, like Live Nation, had to be prompted, others took the initiative to reach out to stakeholders
without first being asked. USAA, the country’s fifth largest property-casualty insurance company, announced in March that
it was giving its members a 20% credit on 2 months of auto insurance premiums since people were driving so much less.
In April the company extended the credit to a third month, committing to returning a total of $800 million to its auto policy
holders. Allstate did something similar, when the company announced on April 6 that it would return 15% of premiums paid
for April and May, a total of about $600 million. “Given an unprecedented decline in driving, customers will receive a

Shelter-in-Place Payback,” said Allstate CEO Tom Wilson. “This is fair because less driving means fewer accidents.”21

Such initiatives proved powerful in that they were replicated by competitors. After USAA and Allstate announced their
programs, most other auto insurance companies decided to offer comparable programs. Liberty Mutual, MetLife, and
Mercury, for example, also provided a 15% credit for April and May. Progressive Insurance provided a 20% credit.

Nationwide, on the other hand, offered a one-time $50 refund per policy.22

BUSINESS AND THE COMMUNITY
A number of companies reached out beyond even their own customers to address community needs stemming from the
pandemic. Loom, a video recording and sharing service, made Loom Pro free for teachers and students at K–12 schools,
universities, and educational institutions. It also removed the recording limit on free plans and cut the price in half for Loom
Pro. U-Haul announced 30 days of free self-storage to all college students affected by schedule changes at their colleges

or universities.23

Among those most severely affected by the pandemic were children, whose learning and education were disrupted by the
sudden closing of schools. Of particular concern were children already experiencing barriers to education or who were at

higher risk of being excluded as a result of physical, economic, and/or technological disparities.24 Preexisting issues
created a significant challenge to the possibility for remote learning to continue while schools were physically closed.

A number of companies responded to this challenge by donating directly to these children. Amazon, for example, donated
8,200 laptops to families of elementary school students in Seattle Public Schools who did not have access to devices for

remote learning.25 Similarly, in Pennsylvania, Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts and his wife Aileen gave $5
million to the Philadelphia School District earmarked to purchase up to 50,000 Chromebook laptop computers. Their goal
was to “even the playing field for learning” in an area where computer access and Internet connectivity lagged other

communities.26 According to Roberts, “When we heard that many Philadelphia students weren’t going to be able to learn
from home without laptops, we quickly decided we wanted to help and provide these teachers, parents and students with
the technology they need to begin learning online within just a few weeks. In good times or bad, now all of our Philadelphia

students will have access to technology to help them succeed.”27

To help bridge the digital divide, or technology gap, some companies specifically targeted lower-income areas and
students. Both Spectrum and Comcast offered free broadband and Wi-Fi Internet access to students affected by the

coronavirus shutdown.28 AT&T launched a special, targeted $10 million fund, its Distance Learning and Family
Connections Fund, to provide home learning resources during Covid-19. “Our country is grappling with an unprecedented
challenge,” said AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson. “Now more than ever before, connecting people with the
resources they need to maintain a sense of normalcy is paramount. For students and teachers, that means creating the

best digital learning environment. For families, that means simply staying connected to loved ones.”29

SMALL BUSINESS: PIVOTING TO SURVIVE
The pandemic posed a particularly severe threat to small business as an institution in the United States. Small businesses,
which typically lack resources to sustain the absence of income for weeks or months, are not poised to weather a
pandemic. Although the government instituted federal, regional, and local efforts to rescue small businesses, and the White
House and Congress made saving small businesses a “linchpin of the financial rescue,” Washington Post reporter Heather
Long pointed out that “tearful, heartfelt announcements about small-business closures are popping up on websites and
Facebook pages around the country. Analysts warn this is only the beginning of the worst wave of small business
bankruptcies and closures since the Great Depression. It’s simply not possible for small businesses to survive with no

income coming in for weeks followed by reopening at half capacity, many owners say.”30 More than 100,000 small

businesses had closed their doors permanently by early May; they were viewed as merely the first of many.31

Not all small businesses collapsed, however; some pivoted to enable their survival. A number of distilleries, for example,
started making hand sanitizers. Shelley Dailey, herself a member of a population particularly vulnerable to Covid-19,
pivoted during the pandemic to turn her 2018 start-up, Studio Distilling, into a hand sanitizer producer. Although her
expertise was in rye malt whiskey, she recognized synergies in crafting whiskey and hand sanitizer (which shares an

alcoholic base). First and foremost, she felt it was her responsibility to pivot: “Most of the distilleries I talk to say it’s our

duty. Because we can, we should.”32 There was a severe shortage of all sorts of personal protective equipment (PPE),
including hand sanitizer, needed in the fight against Covid-19. Distilleries were positioned to help address the storage. At
the same time, the sudden and growing demand for hand sanitizer created a unique opportunity for distilleries to recoup
lost profits.

In another variation of the “pandemic pivot,” the New York office furniture brand Branch transitioned from serving corporate
enterprises to catering to individual residents scrambling to turn their living rooms into home offices. The average Branch
order changed from a $40,000 delivery to a $199 task chair or $279 ergonomic chair. Although revenue would likely take a

huge hit, Torin Rittenberg, growth lead for Brand, said optimistically, “But as one door has closed, another has opened.”33

COVID-19 AND ACADEMIA
Perhaps one of the industries hardest hit by Covid-19 was academia. Although distance learning existed, according to the
National Center for Education Statistics, in 2020 there were more than 4,000 Title IV degree-granting postsecondary
institutions known as colleges or universities in the United States. They served approximately 16.6 million undergraduate
and 3 million graduate students. When the pandemic hit, almost every one of these institutions turned off the lights and
sent their students home. While learning endeavored to continue, sources of income, like meal plans and residence halls,

were severely impaired. Such auxiliary sources of income can account for 11% of college revenue.34 Tension therefore
grew between what the schools could afford and what students believed they deserved. At least 100 lawsuits were filed as
a result of this tension. Students did not believe they should have been charged for on-campus learning when what they

received was so different from what anyone expected.35

The rationale offered by student complaints is intriguing if not compelling. Students argued that they intentionally elected to
pay more for on-campus living, complete with socialization, extracurricular activities, and classroom instruction (that
involved in-person interaction with instructors and classmates). They could have purchased online instruction at a much
lower price. They wanted refunds to compensate them for the value they did not receive as a result of their schools having
closed. In addition, many students complained about the quality of their spring 2020 courses; they asserted that the
education they received from instructors going online without training or preparation was grossly inferior to even regular
distance learning courses. According to Steve Berman, the attorney representing the students in the class-action suit
against George Washington University, “Millions of parents of college students are facing major setbacks, including
unemployment, and now they’re stuck having paid tens of thousands of dollars for a semester that has essentially been

canceled due to mandated shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders.”36

In preparation for fall 2020, academia looked ahead to tremendous uncertainty. Most schools anticipated significant losses
whether bringing students back to campus or not. Many students opted to take a gap year versus tackle the uncertainty of
the remaining months of the pandemic. And almost every school anticipated a significant drop in enrollment from
international students. Schools around the country scrambled during summer 2020 to change calendars, create socially
distanced classrooms, and implement the technology necessary to accommodate students who could not attend in person.
At the same time they battled a host of other issues, including addressing the diverse needs of vulnerable faculty members
and creating workable fall 2020 class schedules.

The imposition on instructors was unprecedented and tremendous. After announcing that distance learning would be the
predominant form of instruction during fall 2020, Harvard encouraged faculty to create trailers for their courses to “sell”
them to students who would otherwise have “shopped around” for courses during the “add/drop” period in the fall. George
Washington University notified faculty that they should be “prepared at any time” to resume virtual instruction if

necessary.37

The onus on faculty was huge, in that most were implicitly required to serve three populations simultaneously, that is, live
students, virtual students, and hybrid students (students switching back and forth between the two). It is notable that the
increased demands placed on faculty were accompanied by a lower salary. Many schools announced salary freezes and/or
cuts. And faculty did this work in the face of tremendous job insecurity: No one was safe as many schools began
furloughing faculty. This was the new reality for academia. Instruction (faculty salaries) is the largest single expense a
university bears. With schools facing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, cutting this expense became almost
inevitable.

IN SEARCH OF A “NEW NORMAL”
The resounding message of health care experts is that Covid-19 has changed our personal, professional, and economic
lives for the foreseeable future. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases and member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, “There’s not going to be like, a light switch that you
turn on and off and say, ‘On this date, America will resume its normal activities,’” Fauci explained. “It’s just not going to be

unidimensional.”38 Instead of looking for a return to normal, he advised people to look for a transition to a “new normal.” He
said the new normal would be fluid and dependent on many factors, not the least of which was the spread of the disease. It
would likely involve masks in public, social distancing, and not being able to do everything that people are accustomed to
doing.

One segment that has taken the lead in finding a “new normal” is the music industry. On May 14, Keith Urban performed an
unannounced concert for medical workers at a drive-in theater in Tennessee. People stayed in their cars, and, instead of

clapping their hands, they flashed their headlights in gratitude.39 It turned out that this performance was for Urban as much
as it was for the audience. It “took a little while,” Urban explained, “to figure my way back to that creative place with

confidence…. Trying to keep being creative in this new singular realm was a bit of a turn for me.”40 When asked if he

planned to do more drive-in concerts, he responded quickly and enthusiastically: “Absolutely.”41

Urban’s performance helped light the way to our new normal. Following Urban’s success, Live Nation immediately began
exploring ways to use amphitheater parking areas for more automotive concerts. While such experiences are not the same
as what existed prepandemic, they demonstrate that there can be a safe new normal.

BUSINESS ADVANTAGES OF THE NEW NORMAL
Many people are reluctant to embrace the new normal. Social distancing is awkward, and wearing a mask in public is
uncomfortable. People miss seeing facial expressions, like smiles. Businesses that have accepted the new normal are
finding numerous opportunities to enhance operations.

An easy example can be found in the newfound market for drive-in theaters. Once considered a dying industry,42 they are

clearly making a comeback as a direct result of the pandemic.43 Outdoor cinema venues suddenly regained popularity
because they offered people a distraction and safe way to be entertained outside of the house. Old drive-ins have been
reopened, and makeshift theaters have been built in parking lots. In July, Walmart announced that 160 of its parking lots

would be transformed into drive-in theaters.44 Some businesses are grasping to recoup lost revenues; others are simply
taking advantage of new opportunities.

Other companies, some formerly resistant to telework, were prompted to question if they needed their expensive urban
footprints. According to the New York Times, “Before the coronavirus crisis, three of New York City’s largest commercial
tenants—Barclays, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley—had tens of thousands of workers in towers across Manhattan.
Now, as the city wrestles with when and how to reopen, executives at all three firms have decided that it is highly unlikely

that all their workers will ever return to those buildings.”45 Such a change could translate into significant costs savings, as
well as heightened morale and productivity for employees who thrive working from home, while damaging the real estate
industry.

The pandemic has also exposed the disadvantages of relying too heavily on a single country—China—and has therefore
prompted healthy supply chain diversification. According to a PriceWaterHouseCooper survey conducted during the
pandemic, many CFOs thinking about business recovery were contemplating changes to make their supply chains more
resilient. According to one survey respondent, “Physical supply chain relocations will likely happen only as a last resort,
given the costs involved. However, automation of certain elements of the supply chain—to eliminate time-consuming
manual tracking efforts and check tariff structures, for example—will likely become more common as companies seek

better data to make more informed decisions.”46

Another positive consequence of the coronavirus has been the rise of contact-free commerce. Telemedicine, for example,
has received a huge boost from the pandemic. Particularly while stay-at-home orders were in place, people were unable or
unwilling to access in-person care from health professionals. Telemedicine emerged as an immediate way of getting health
care to people who could or would not get to health care. Through telemedicine, using technology that already existed and
devices that many people already had in their homes, health care professionals were able to see patients virtually and
prescribe treatments as needed, without putting those patients at risk for catching the coronavirus. According to Dr. Emil

Baccash, a geriatrician in Brooklyn, New York, “Telemedicine will definitely be part of the future of medicine.”47

The pandemic has also prompted forward-looking partnerships between disparate enterprises, such as Microsoft Azure
and Johns Hopkins Medicine (JHM). The partnership is aimed at enabling JHM to leverage Microsoft’s artificial intelligence
and analytical tools to facilitate breakthroughs in precision medicine. Precision medicine enables health care professionals
to identify the best disease treatment for a particular patient by using genetic and molecular testing data to enhance the

reliability of predictions.48

CONCLUSION
The theme of the pandemic has been uncertainty. Even though the world has experienced something like this situation
before, during the 1918 flu pandemic, also known as the Spanish flu, for people alive in 2020, it was an entirely new
experience. Health experts emphasized repeatedly how much they did not know. They did not know how long Covid-19
would spread, how it would react to weather changes, or if it would recur. They believed that a vaccine could be developed,
and the common hope and belief was that the pandemic would be temporary until there was a vaccine. Every step taken
was simply to protect as many lives as possible until then. Without a playbook, public officials did the best they could for
their citizens to balance the competing interests of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The great loser, at least initially, was the economy—it was essentially halted. Businesses and their stakeholders struggled
to figure out who should bear the costs of the shutdown. The responses by businesses demonstrated no definitive answer.
Although businesses have the right to make their own choices, it is important for them to keep in mind the collective
memory of stakeholders. Today, our choices are limited by the pandemic. Once there is a vaccine, however, stakeholders
will have the opportunity to show both their approval and disapproval of the decisions businesses made.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. What were the intial advantages of shutting down the economy to combat the spread of Covid-19? Is there
anything you would have done differently had you been the policy maker?

2. Do businesses have a “right” to operate?
3. Many people objected to restrictions imposed by their governors. American law protects the right of people to

protest when they object. Some of these objectors elected to protest restrictions by violating them. If a salon
owner opened their salon during the shutdown, were they simply exercising their constitutionally protected right
to protest?

4. Should businesses have announced they were not going to pay rent? Is there a lesson here for landlords or
tenants?

5. Should businesses have furloughed employees?
6. What is the business rationale for companies like Comcast and U-Haul giving away free services?
7. Should students have been charged full tuition once campuses closed?
8. In what sort of ways can post-pandemic businesses integrate what they have learned through the pandemic?

Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

The x-axis represents date from 1/14/20 to 3/9/20 in increments of 5. The y-axis represents the number of Covid-19 cases
from 0 to 1200 in increments of 200. Until 3/4/20, the number of cases were between 0 and 200. Thereafter, it shows a
rapid increase in the number of cases and by 3/9/20 the number of cases reached 1000.

The source of the figure is CDC.

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