Hallmark gives away 1 million cards to help people connect and lift spirits

March 20, 2020

Greetings and salutations from Hallmark Cards, which announced on March 27 that, effective immediately, the company would donate one million cards to encourage people to send messages to friends, family,and others—who now, more than ever, need to feel loved and supported.

In a news release, the Kansas City, Missouri-based company said, “Whether it’s sent to a loved one, neighbor, senior center or a healthcare worker, a card is a small act of kindness that can make a big impact on someone’s day. In this time of uncertainty, staying connected is important. That’s why Hallmark is giving away one million free cards to anyone who wants to join them in putting more care in the world.”

Participating is easy: Anyone in the continental United States can go to Hallmark.com/CareEnough and sign-up to receive a free three-card pack, while supplies last. No purchase is necessary.

“Hallmark has been in the business of caring for more than 100 years, so lending a hand to help others connect is part of our DNA,” said Chief Marketing Officer Lindsey Roy. “During a time of unprecedented social distancing, we hope these cards will be shared across neighborhoods, towns and the country to help lift spirits.”

And finally: A paper hug. A special wish. What will your card spark? Share with Hallmark using #CareEnough.

Research contact: @Hallmark

Udacity offers one month of free tech training during COVID-19 crisis

March 27, 2020

Online learning platform Udacity is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by offering free tech training to workers who have been laid off, furloughed, or are sheltering in place, due to the crisis.

On March 26, the Mountain View, California-based company announced on its blog that it will offer its courses—known as nanodegrees—free for one month. The average price for an individual signing up for a nanodegree is about $400 a month, and the degrees take anywhere from four to six months to complete, according to the company.

Gabe Dalporto, CEO of Udacity, told CNBC that over the past few weeks, as he and his senior leadership team heard projections of skyrocketing unemployment numbers as a result of COVID-19, he felt the need to act. “I think those reports were a giant wake-up call for everybody,” he says. “This [virus] will create disruption across the board and in many industries, and we wanted to do our part to help.”

Dalporto says Udacity is funding the scholarships completely and that displaced workers can apply for them at udacity.com/pledge-to-americas-workers .

Udacity will take the first 50 eligible applicants from each company that applies, and within 48 hours individuals should be able to begin the coursework. Dalporto says the offer will be good for the first 20 companies that apply and that “after that we’ll evaluate and figure out how many more scholarships we are going to fund.

The hope is that while individuals wait to go back to work, or in the event that the layoff is permanent, they can get training in fields that are driving so much of today’s digital transformation. Udacity’s courses include artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital marketing, product management, data analysis, cloud computing, autonomous vehicles, among others.

The company also announced this week that any individual, regardless of whether they’ve been laid off, can enroll for free in any one of Udacity’s 40 different nanodegree programs. Users will get the first month free when they enroll in a monthly subscription, but Dalporto pointed out that many students can complete a course in a month if they dedicate enough time to it.

Dalporto says. “The great irony in the world right now is that at the same time that a lot of people are going to lose their jobs, there are areas in corporations where managers just can’t hire enough people for jobs in data analytics, cloud computing and AI.”

Research contact: @CNBC

Gap is dedicating factories to make masks, gowns, and scrubs for healthcare workers

March 26, 2020

Gap is the latest retailer to announce a commitment to use its resources to create personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, Business Insider reports.

The clothing and accessories manufacturer and marketer announced on March 25 via Twitter, “Our teams are connecting some of the largest hospital networks in Calif. w/our vendors to deliver PPE [personal protective equipment] supplies, while we pivot resources so factory partners can make masks, gowns & scrubs for healthcare workers on the front lines.”

The company—which opened its first store in 1969 in San Francisco, selling primarily jeans and LP records—said it would connect with hospitals in California to deliver the supplies.

In order to provide the crucial and urgently needed supplies to healthcare providers, Gap made the decision to temporarily close its company owned and operated stores across North America, including Old Navy, Athleta, Banana Republic, Gap, Janie and Jack, and Intermix brands. The closures were effective March 19.

Other retailers have announced similar initiatives to support healthcare workers as the coronavirus prompts a nationwide shortage of masks and other protective equipment. In California, hospitals have turned to Los Angeles seamstresses to make masks.

Nike also announced it was creating personal protective equipment such as face shields to support doctors and nurses in Oregon. Zara announced a similar initiative.

Research contact: @GapInc

Hobby Lobby remains open: ‘God is in control’

March 25, 2020

Christian-owned Hobby Lobby–a private for-profit arts-and-crafts retail chain based in Oklahoma City—has announced in a memo to its 32,000 employees nationwide that its stores will not close during the COVID-19 pandemic, except in states where they has been ordered to do so.

Instead, the chain will take measures to help minimize risks to shoppers during the coronavirus pandemic and trust in God.

According to a report by The Christian Post, Hobby Lobby founder and CEO of David Green wrote to all the employees last week,  “While we do not know for certain what the future holds, or how long this disruption will last, we can all rest in knowing that God is in control … To help ensure our Company remains strong and prepared to prosper once again when this passes, we may all have to ‘tighten our belts’ over the near future.”

Green said in the memo that his wife, Barbara, whom he called a “prayer warrior,” had heard the word of God. The CEO wrote, “The Lord put on Barbara’s heart three profound words to remind us that He’s in control. ‘Guide, Guard, and Groom.’ We serve a God who will Guide us through this storm, who will Guard us as we travel to places never seen before, and who, as a result of this experience, will Groom us to be better than we could have ever thought possible before now.”

Unlike Hobby Lobby, many retailers have closed their stores or reduced hours in the wake of the coronavirus scare, including Chick-fil-a and Walmart. Indeed, more than 110 retailers have shut all their stores, according to Forbes.

Blogger Hemant Mehta criticized Hobby Lobby for remaining open in states that have not announced a lockdown. He wrote on his website, Friendly Atheist, “The chain, owned by the evangelical Green family, is refusing to shut down—no matter how much harm they could be creating for their employees and customers.”

Hobby Lobby said it has “increased the frequency of store cleaning, including more cleaning of areas regularly touched by customers and employees, with anti-viral cleaning products throughout the day.”

If an employee is suspected of having COVID-19 based on symptoms and/or known direct or indirect exposure, we will send that employee for medical care and to self-isolate at home, and will promptly coordinate with public health officials.”

However, the company did not promise to cover employees’ healthcare costs, if they caught the virus.

Research contact: @ChristianPost

3M to send 500,000 respirators to New York City, Seattle

March 24, 2020

The 3M Company will send 500,000 respirators—face masks with protection suitable for a healthcare system deluged by COVID-19—to New York City and Seattle as the two cities combat the COVID-19 outbreak, its CEO announced in a statement released on Sunday, March 22.

While U.S. government agencies have not been specific about the sources and numbers of crucial, urgently needed, medical supplies that are being manufactured and distributed nationwide, 3M CEO and Chairman Mike Roman said,” … we’ve 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. In the United States we are producing 35 million respirators per month; of these, more than 90% are now designated for healthcare workers, with the remaining deployed to other industries also critical in this pandemic, including energy, food and pharmaceutical companies.

“ As a global company, we also manufacture respirators in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, and our products are being similarly deployed to support the COVID-19 response in those respective regions.”

Already, he said, “… 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 [Monday, March 23]. We are also ready to expedite additional shipments across the country.”

The company is aiming to double its global capacity to 2 billion within the next year. 3M is working with the U.S. and other governments to see if other manufacturing strategies or partnerships can expedite doubling the capacity.

Roman also said the company has maximized the production of other products related to fighting the virus, like hand sanitizers and disinfectants..

“We are all in this together, and 3M will continue to do all we can to help protect lives and get the world through this crisis,” he said in the release.

3M’s announcement came as state leaders are calling on the federal government to access medical supplies as hospitals and other health care facilities experience a lack of equipment because of the growing number of cases, The Hill reported—noting that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) called on the federal government Sunday to order the manufacturing of medical supplies, so states do not have to battle each other to get access.

New York and Washington states have been hit hard by the virus, with more than 15,000 cases and almost 2,000 cases, respectively, The Hill said.. New York State has seen the most deaths with 117; followed by Washington State, with 94, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Research contact: @3M

Craft distilleries step up to make free hand sanitizer

March 23, 2020

Responding to a new and urgent patriotic call-of-duty, craft distilleries are adding a new product to their lineup of gins, whiskeys, and rums. They are gearing up to make scads of free hand sanitizer, The New York Times reports.

Many are reporting extraordinary demand for the product, which has been hard, if not impossible, to find on store shelves. In response, distilleries are giving away hand sanitizer for free, despite losing sales of their traditional spirits because of the closing of restaurants, bars, and their own tasting rooms.

“This is not an economic lifeline for distilleries,” Brad Plummer, a spokesman for the American Distilling Institute and editor in chief of Distiller Magazine, told the Times. “We live in these communities. We know these people. We’re watching them suffer, and we have the ability to help.”

Litchfield Distillery in Litchfield, Connecticut told the news outlet that it had been inundated by hundreds of calls from people clamoring for a few of the roughly 2,000 bottles of hand sanitizer it produced this week-incorporating the very same alcohol it typically uses to make gin, bourbon, and vodka.

“Right now, we’re down to a couple hundred bottles, which will probably be gone by midmorning tomorrow,” Jack Baker, an owner of the distillery with his brothers David and Peter Baker, said on Thursday night, March 19.

He said the calls had come from health care workers, police departments, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. “And then we have people walking in with just desperation on their faces, and old people calling up, crying,” Baker said. “It’s just a mess.”

Many distillery owners said they were proud to be stepping in to fill a national need during a time of crisis and didn’t see hand sanitizer as a potential source of profit. Baker said he had been giving away the bottles he makes without charging customers.

“The community has supported us, so it’s an obligation, if you have a product that could be helpful,” he said. “It’s what you do.”

Mr. Plummer said early responses to an industry survey suggested that three-fourths of the nation’s 2,000 craft distilleries were considering making sanitizer as a way to help health care workers, law enforcement officials and the general public.

The distilleries, which had been following a recipe recommended by the World Health Organization, were having a hard time finding plastic containers to bottle the product, Plummer said. Many were asking members of the public to bring their own bottles from home.

Research contact: @nytimes

Nudity, feline photobombs, and farts: People report side-splitting screw-ups when working from home

March 20, 2020

Right now, millions of Americans are adjusting to working at home—quarantined in small domestic spaces, along with assorted family members and pets. And Fast Company reports, it’s kind of easy to think that you are conducting business as usual, until your child inevitably runs into the room during a video call—cutting off your boss mid-sentence, shouting, “Poo poo!”

So now, the news outlet advises, we all will need to adjust to the new normal work environment, in which toddlers and flatulent dogs are free to roam.

But until we adapt, the following are some of the worst work-from-home (WFH) fails that Fast Company has see online (mostly on Twitter) during the past week. They prove that, however rough your work-from-home experience has been, it could have been a lot worse.

  • Whole house WFH day 1 report: I whispered “I LOVE YOU” loudly into what turned out to be my spouse’s active meeting headset mic.
  • Day 3 of WFH and my family started screaming while I was in a meeting and my co-worker remarked: “Now I understand why you prefer to go into the office everyday.”
  • Pro-tip: if you and your husband are both working from home, check to see if he’s on a four-way video call BEFORE running past the office naked to get a towel from the linen closet.
  • Big WFH learning for me today: Remind Ryan to put some clothes on before he goes into the bathroom first thing in the morning. Today he walked past my team video call BUTT naked.
  • The people on this conference call don’t know, but I BARELY muted my microphone before my dog did something I can only describe as a yell barf.
  • Working from home today and my cat optioned to join me for my work meeting. She means business.
  • First WFH meeting and my dog decides to show his ass.
  • Just started talking to my cat in the middle of a 68-person Zoom meeting—and i wasn’t muted!!!
  • Start meeting. Unmute to speak. Washing machine starts spinning. Hurriedly get up to escape the noise. Do not realize charger is plugged in. Proceed to loudly knock pint of water plus cup of coffee all over *everything.* Continue speaking calmly as if nothing happened.
  • I’m in a WFH meeting and my Google Home just answered a question someone on the video call asked, unprompted. I nearly jumped out of my skin.
  • Every WFH meeting so far: “I’m sorry, you go…” “No, sorry I-” “Well what I was sayi-” “I’m sorry, were you saying something?” “Go ahead, no sorry, you go…” *5 voices speak at once . Suddenly no one speaks SLOW PORTAL ZOOM INTENSIFIES DURING AWKWARD SILENCE**#COVID19
  • WFH Day 3: Was in a 15 person online meeting, thought I was muted, farted.
  • The subject of every WFH Zoom meeting is actually “Oh, so that’s where you live.”
  • WFH diary, day 1: Power went out during recording; construction workers are extra loud today; daughter walked in on a meeting singing “I like banaaaaanas” at the top of her lungs.
  • Day 1 of mandatory #WFH while watching a sick kid: pretty good, other than my 4-y/o running into the middle of a supervision meeting yelling “DADA, I HAVE TO POOP!” Textbook “disorienting moment” pedagogy!
  • My kid just walked into my video conference, yelled “Look at my penis,” and hit the button on his fart machine. Working from home going really great!

We hope that your WFH experience is going just as well—if not better.

Research contact: @FastCompany

Kohl’s will carry Lands’ End apparel online and in 150 stores this fall

March 19, 2020

Lands’ End is trading its partnership with Sears for one with another department store: Kohl’s.  The Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin-based department store chain will carry Lands’ End apparel and home merchandise online and in 150 of its more than 1,100 locations this fall, the retailers announced on March 16, according to a report by The Chicago Tribune.

“The addition of Lands’ End, a market leader in the classic, casual lifestyle, into Kohl’s brand portfolio further strengthens our product leadership and our ability to deliver unmatched national brands to Kohl’s customers,” Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass said in a news release. “Lands’ End brings its strong brand recognition, leadership in casual style and fit authority, and gives new and existing customers something to discover at Kohl’s.”

Kohl’s didn’t say which stores would carry the Lands’ End products.

Lands’ End was founded in Chicago in 1963, and initially sold yachting gear by catalog. Another Chicago-area retailer, Sears, bought Lands’ End in 2002.

The partnership with Sears gave Lands’ End, which had relied primarily on catalog and online sales, a presence in hundreds of Sears stores. Lands’ End continued to have shops in Sears stores after a spinoff separated the companies in 2014, the Tribune said.

But there was little overlap between the two retailers’ customers, Lands’ End CEO Jerome Griffith told the Tribune last year, when the company opened a store at Oakbrook Center mall, a premier shopping destination in Chicago’s western suburbs. The last of Lands’ End’s shops in Sears closed earlier this year.

Lands’ End has 26 stand-alone stores today, although all are closed through March 29 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Stop & Shop to open early for shoppers over 60 during coronavirus outbreak

March 18, 2020

Quincy, Massachusetts-based Stop & Shop—a chain of supermarkets that serves the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island—announced on March 16 that it will begin opening early for older shoppers., The Boston Globe reports.

 Starting on Thursday, March 19, Stop & Shop will be open from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. for customers age 60 and over, the company said—noting that the Centers for Disease Control and local health authorities have said older adults are at higher risk of contracting the virus.

“Stop & Shop is making the decision to allow community members in this age category to shop in a less crowded environment, which better enables social distancing,” a company statement said.

The statement said Stop & Shop will not ask shoppers for an ID when they enter but requested “that we all respect the purpose of the early opening — and do the right thing for our older neighbors.”

Stop & Shop retains the right to ask younger shoppers to leave during the early period, the statement said., The Globe said.

It said the supermarket chain is keeping high levels of hygiene and sanitation in its stores and online operations.

“We’re also taking additional measures during this time, which include wiping down checkout areas including the belts and pin pads with disinfectant even more frequently,” the company stated.

Over the weekend, Stop & Shop adjusted its hours of operation to 7:30 a.m. — 8:00 p.m. at most stores beginning Monday. Many of its stories had previously been open to 10 or 11 p.m.

Research contact: @StopandShop

DOT provides regulatory relief to commercial drivers delivering supplies during pandemic

March 17, 2020

Keep on trucking! That’s what the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) had to say to the drivers of commercial vehicles this week.

The agency issued a national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This declaration is the first time FMCSA has issued nation-wide relief and follows President Trump issuing of a national emergency declaration in response to the virus.

Because of the decisive leadership of President [Donald] Trump and Secretary [of Labor Elaine] Chao, this declaration will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently. FMCSA is continuing to closely monitor the coronavirus outbreak and stands ready to use its authority to protect the health and safety of the American people,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen.

FMCSA’s declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs for:

  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
  • Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for healthcare worker, patient and community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities.
  • Food for emergency restocking of stores.
  • Equipment, supplies and persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19.
  • Persons designated by federal, state or local authorities for transport for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes.
  • Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services.

To ensure continue safety on the nation’s roadways, the emergency declaration stipulates that once a driver has completed his or her delivery, the driver must receive a minimum of ten hours off duty if transporting property, and eight hours if transporting passengers. 

Research contact: @USDOT