I was on my way to Portugal when COVID-19 concerns escalated into worldwide panic. My classmates and I had just finished our spring break trip to Morocco, and when I landed in the U.S. after changing our plans, we were informed the plane would be held at the gate since there were passengers who had shown symptoms of COVID-19. Thankfully, the passengers had preexisting conditions that explained the symptoms, and we were sent on our way. For me and my peers, that meant 14 days of self-quarantine, just to be safe.
During those 14 days we watched as the world quickly changed around us. Stores ran out of toilet paper, access to food and water became front of mind, friends were quarantined in foreign countries, and the reality of isolation caused many to experience anxiety and depression. We watched an entire country shut down, as Italian doctors were forced to make unthinkably difficult decisions to prioritize patients.
Yet, I live in a nice apartment, with plenty of food and a 6-month supply of toilet paper thanks to a Costco run at the start of the school year. My family is healthy—I am extremely fortunate. Let’s briefly put it into perspective.
This pandemic will—and has—unquestionably affected the most vulnerable populations among us at a disproportionate rate. Nearly 11 million American children live in “food insecure” households, which means they lack reliable access to food. In many cases, children depend on the meals served public schools to eat each day—schools that are now shut down. That’s not to mention the countless small businesses who have laid off employees (in the last month more than 22 million people have filed for unemployment—that’s nearly all of the jobs added from the 11-year bull market), homeless individuals who are at increased risk for not having access to food or shelter, and many, many others who are going to seriously feel the effects of this virus not just now but for years to come.
Battle No. 1
There are two key battles that stand out to me. The first is keeping medical workers safe. As I see it, keeping medical workers safe is tantamount to narrowing the “U-shaped” recovery we hear about. The need to prevent the overextension of hospitals and keep medical professionals from getting the virus means that social-distancing must stay in place longer (it’s also important to slow the virus spreading, period). And while it is critical for all of us to continue to socially distance, we must also be aware that the ability to do so is linked to one’s economic circumstances.
Since COVID-19 protection requirements have increased, the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE) has gone up dramatically. According to one analysis, PPE costs have increased by more than 1,000%. The $1,200 government funding checks likely wouldn’t cover PPE costs for a front-line worker if they wanted to use them to protect themselves. But the more important message is this: we can’t require those who are on the front lines of this battle to protect themselves when our society has not given them the resources to do so. It is our responsibility to protect those who are serving every day to protect us.
Battle No. 2
The second battle we fight is emotional, and it is just as important. While extensive research is lacking in this space, experts are concerned that social-distancing measures may trigger or worsen mental health conditions. Watching the news feels like a Catch-22. Incessantly reading about or viewing the events that are happening creates a real sense of anxiety for many, and yet constantly changing circumstances require us to be informed. So how do we fight battle No. 1 while not falling victim to the very real psychological tolls of this pandemic, the feeling of helplessness in the face of this event?
How We’re Fighting the Battles
Dean Boulding constantly refers to the DNA of a Fuquan as being composed of an Intellectual Quotient (IQ), Emotional Quotient (EQ), and a Decency Quotient (DQ). What Fuqua does best is challenge us to use the first two in support of making the world a better place. Our leadership, knowledge, and platforms are only as valuable as their potential to do good for the world around us. And what about our ability to do so? That’s the decency quotient. And it became apparent that my peers and I could do just that for this pandemic. We could fight the battle to help keep our medical professionals safe, and the battle to keep ourselves mentally safe.
That’s why I’ve started the Fuqua Beard Fundraiser. The concept is simple—my peers and I are growing our beards through May. Donors can contribute to the fundraiser and tag their donation to one of three hilarious beard styles. We’ll shave our beards into the winning selection at the end—live for everyone’s entertainment! That’s how we fight battle No. 2.
We fight battle No. 1 by donating 100% of all proceeds to Direct Relief. Direct Relief is an international humanitarian organization with a COVID-19 relief fund dedicated to providing protective gear and critical care medications to as many health workers as possible, as quickly as possible. You can learn more about its efforts here and contribute to our fundraiser here.
A Fuqua Bond
When we first got to Fuqua, one of our professors asked us to value our MBA. Being the star-eyed business students that we are, we all tried a discounted cash flow analysis, which quickly evaporated as we learned that it is hard to identify the value of a network on our own life. But we missed something else—the value of the positive externalities our community creates on other people’s lives. In times like these, it’s important that we all realize that what bonds us as Fuquans, what makes Fuqua a valuable community, is that we are all dedicated to using our IQ and EQ to be decent and to do good for the world. So, whether through this fundraiser, supporting a business through free consultations, delivering meals, or something else, one common characteristic of Fuquans is that we strive to leverage our platforms to do good in this time of need.