If you've ever worked with us at Flamtech before, you already know 1) we are very detailed about appliances and like to know our facts and 2) that we like to be careful and will ask you about your outlets, your duct sizes and/or your stairs before we sell you an appliance, because we don't like to play fast and loose with a customer's project. As we've considered our response to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we figured we should do no less. An emerging health threat in our local community certainly merits at least the same treatment as kitchen and laundry appliances.
And so what we've learned as of now based on reports (the situation is changing rapidly - pardon us if the information has updated by the time you're reading this):
It's been a mere 12 days since March 1, when NY had it's first reported case of COVID-19. As of today, Mar 13, 2020, we currently have 421 confirmed cases of people infected with COVID-19. There are 154 cases in NYC alone.
In contrast, Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, had an influx of unwell visitors from Wuhan, the origin of the outbreak, in the very first week of January 2020 before much news of the virus was known globally (or even in China). It's been over 60 days, since then, over 5 times as long as the time since our own local outbreak started, and the city has only 137 cases confirmed cases, 78 of which are recovered as of Mar 12, 2020.
Even more striking is Taiwan. Taiwan reported it's first case on Jan 21, 2020. As of Mar 13, 2020, almost 2 months later, Taiwan has had a mere 50 confirmed cases, 20 of which are recovered, and one 1 death. This is an entire country.
If you contrast this to the failure of containment today in Iran (11,364 cases confirmed), South Korea (8086 confirmed), Italy (17,660 confirmed), and in the Chinese province of Hubei, where Wuhan, the epicenter is located (at least 67,786 confirmed) one has to ask: why such different trajectories? Experts everywhere are pointing to what lessons are to be learned from Taiwan , Hong Kong and Singapore about how to contain global pandemics, as well as how to adapt under the forceful containment measures.
One of the key commonalities is the aggressive and coordinated pre-emptive measures that were taken, both by the government, and by the public. The governments acted quickly to form coordinated plan of action, including painstakingly detecting and tracing cases of infection and then enforcing strict quarantine directives. The public also adopted anti-epidemic protocols like hand hygiene and social distancing readily, to sometimes extreme levels. These were places that were scarred by the SARS outbreak years ago, and would rather be safe than sorry.
In comparison, the US government's response has been sluggish and inconsistent, despite having over a month to watch the outbreak unfold, first in China and then around the world. The fact that something as basic as test kits have been under-supplied and were even at times flawed, means that detection, one of the key elements of the successful containment strategies, has not really been executed thus far. As far as our "trajectory" goes, it's not the most promising of starts. There are signs that the government at the local and finally national level are finally starting to act, but how that plays out is largely out of the hands of the average American citizen or small business.
So we can only take our cue what the public did in the "success" cases, which is to take the outbreak seriously. After all, we here at Flamtech always prefer to be careful, and the facts support that social distancing works to reduce the risk and spread of the disease. That reduces the strain on our healthcare system, as well as the risk of potential harm that can come to the more vulnerable demographics (like my grandparents, or my pregnant cousin) in our community.
And so our Flamtech team has decided that we will be moving our operations "online", so to speak, starting 3/16/2020. Our staff will be supporting all our customers, trade partners and working with our vendors and delivery teams over the phone, on email, by text/SMS or messaging apps like WeChat (which isn't all that different from what happens normally). The main difference is that visits to our physical location at 114 Bowery, NY NY 10013 will be available by appointment only. Our staff won't be moving through public transit and congregating daily, and in person appointments with our scheduled customers would be one-on-one consultations, without the presence or distraction of other groups of walk-in customers. We're confident that we can provide the same excellent customer experience that has earned us the high ratings our customers have given us on Yelp and Google.