Please find below the transcript for a special episode highlighting things that can be done to help healthcare workers (food, temp housing, PPE, ventilators and vent modification for higher capacity, etc.), as well as a few companies well positioned to immediately help.
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Tim Ferriss: Hello, boys and girls. This is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show. This is going to be a sponsor free, somewhat unusual episode and I implore you to please listen to the whole thing. I have been in quarantine/self-isolation with my girlfriend and Molly, my pup, for about four weeks now and I’ve been tracking all of this very, very closely since the beginning. I’ve also been in close contact with people working in emergency rooms, ICU, et cetera in New York as well as prior to that, Italy and other places. So I’ve had an ear to the ground for some time.
I expect next week—it’s currently Friday, March 20th—to be an exceptionally difficult week for many people and many cities, New York City chief among them. And if you are lucky enough to be listening to this podcast and healthy, you likely owe something to a health care worker. If it weren’t for healthcare workers, I would be dead as one example. If not for healthcare workers, my dad would have died of a heart attack. At least three uncles, at least two aunts, just off the top of my head would be dead were it not for healthcare workers. And much like a seatbelt or an airbag these are things, in this case people, who are of incredible importance and you don’t really notice them until you need them.
So I would encourage you to think of health care workers alongside people working on vaccine development and drug development as the walls of the city. These are the people who are most important to protect right now if we want to recover quickly from the current SARS-CoV2, COVID-19 pandemic threat. If you want, just in enlightened self-interest, you want the markets to rebound, you want your investments to rebound, you want life to go back to normal. The first thing I would draw your attention to is ensuring that healthcare workers—that’s what we’re going to focus on this episode—have what they need to fight extremely effectively. That is critically important because as soon as we have shortages of staff, we have many, many more compounding problems. So this episode is going to bounce around a bit and I’m going to highlight things that can be done and I’m also going to highlight companies I hope continue to do work and some that might be good options for people to explore as well as a number of resources.
And I’m going to read first just from some notes that I’ve taken over the last few weeks of speaking with very, very, very credible physicians on the front lines who are not only doing the work themselves with patients as clinicians, but who are also in management positions. So in no particular order here we go. Doctors, nurses, PAs, techs doing x-rays, technicians, that is, cleaning staff. These are all people who are making incredible sacrifices for you, anyone listening to this, every day. And if you are one of these healthcare workers, suffice to say, I want to give you my sincerest thanks. You are going to make the difference here. You are one of the most important elements in this entire puzzle, so thank you for doing what you do.
Right now physicians feel very let down by the federal government. They have a lack of PPE, personal protective equipment, and so on. They did sign up, many of them, to risk their lives and help others, but they do need support. So here are a few of the things that have come up repeatedly as very important and very immediate. And by immediate I mean, not to act like Nostradamus, but I’ve very accurately predicted a lot of what would happen over the last four weeks and next week I anticipate to be a very difficult week in New York City. And these people need help right now, not next Tuesday, not next Thursday but ASAP immediately.
The first is temporary housing, temporary housing for healthcare workers/providers so they can rest instead of commute for instance. And also not go home and risk infecting elderly parents. And I am going to call a few people out here for thanks and also hopefully to jump into the fray to help.
The first is Airbnb. So @Airbnb on Twitter, I would like to thank for already having deployed experiments in Italy helping with temporary housing. So Airbnb, and I also want to say, just in general, private enterprise is really stepping up mainly to try to help where the government is failing. So Airbnb is already doing experiments and I really hope they continue to run experiments in the U.S. Nowhere is that more urgent than in New York City at the moment.
Next I’d like to bring up Hilton Hotels, @HiltonHotels. Certainly not the only hotel chain or hospitality group that could help in these circumstances. For instance, you have, and I’m going to get the name pronunciation wrong here, but Gary Neville, famous soccer player and Chelsea Chairman, Roman Abramovich in the UK are making their hotels available for healthcare workers right now. This is extremely valuable. So Hilton is having a tough time, as are many in hospitality, and I have listened to quite a bit from Bill Ackman, @BillAckman, who is deeply involved with Hilton and I think that there’s tremendous opportunity right now to not only do a lot of good but also set Hilton, and fill-in-the-blank, if you are involved with another hotel or hospitality group, up for success later.
And I will commit right now to highlighting and promoting anyone who steps up, meaning larger companies who step up and even smaller, if I find you on Twitter and I see you. But larger companies especially, I will promote and put my machine behind you if you step up now for New York City and other cities who need help.
All right, so that’s Airbnb, clap, clap. Please expand what you’re doing. Keep doing what you’re doing and @HiltonHotels and by association, since I don’t know anyone else to get directly to Hilton, that is Bill Ackman, who I think has thought very clearly about a lot related to this pandemic.
Next up is food. Food. We need to keep people not just rested but also fed, and food can be very difficult for people on grueling shifts in the ER. What I don’t want, and I had to think very carefully about the call to action here, is for people to suddenly show up at ERs with hundreds of boxes of pizza. I think that will create, just as one example, more problems, more confusion, more contagion than anything it would solve. But there are a few options here.
So the first is there are a number of companies, for instance, you have Sweetgreens, who is delivering meals to healthcare workers, @sweetgreen, I believe it is singular and then you have Uber Eats. I think Uber Eats is probably the operator who has the most leverage here to do the most good. And Uber Eats, @UberEats has already said, and this was a pinned tweet from March 16th, “We’re committing 300,000 plus meals to health care workers and first responders.” So that is a huge deal, and if I try to find the instructions for how to take advantage of that as a healthcare worker… I can’t find it. So @UberEats please make it clearer on your Twitter account and elsewhere how people can actually take advantage of this. All I see is on the linked blog post, “Interested officials and organizations can reach us at,” and then the email, which is firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, that’s email@example.com. But this is very cumbersome. It is not expedient.
The instructions need to be very clear or the plans need to be very clear and the need is immediate. This isn’t something that can be conveniently rolled out over 12 months. If you really want to help, now is the time to help. So I appreciate you making the commitment and please make the instructions and announcements much, much clearer.
And for people who are listening who are asking, how can I personally help? I’m going to be creating a separate email list of people who are interested in different types of helping, and I will let you know. Right now things are very messy and there are many ways to become confused and waste resources. I will give you one option in a few minutes, but suffice to say, go to tim.blog/fightcovid. That’s tim.blog/fightcovid and add your name and email, and I will do my best to share with you vetted options for helping.
All right. Now I said I was going to mention something where you might be able to help and that is coming up right now. So an announcement today that came out—this is from Ryan Peterson, P-E-T-E-R-S-E-N, @typesfast on Twitter. He is the CEO of Flexport and here’s the announcement:
Paul Graham, @PaulG, and for those who don’t know, of Y Combinator, just donated $1 billion to flexport.org. That gift will pay for almost all of the protective gear required by the entire city of San Francisco’s frontline healthcare workers will likely distribute the equipment to hospitals and other locations.
All right. Flexport, flexport.org is global logistics and sustainability. And as we scroll down, I’m looking at Paul’s response to that, and I encourage everyone to follow Paul Graham on Twitter.
Here’s what he says, “Potential donors, I’ve known Ryan for many years and know how extraordinarily effective he is. So if the hospitals in your city lack protective equipment, ask Ryan, and he’ll go get it for you.” Who is Paul Graham? If you don’t know, he was involved in helping get companies like Dropbox, Airbnb, Reddit, et cetera, off the ground. That’s the very simplified version, but take that seriously. So do take a look if you’re interested in supporting personal protective equipment. One option may be flexport.org and you can take a look at that as well as flexport.com/donate.
Next up, we’ve covered temporary housing, we’ve covered food, we’ve covered the personal protective equipment for now, at home testing, which would minimize the number of people showing up at clinics unannounced asking for testing and causing further chaos. I will keep everyone posted on findings that I come across which are promising related to at home testing. If you go again to tim.blog/fightcovid, I will also put that on social and I’ll put it on Twitter. My account is TFerris, so twitter.com/tferriss.
The next few things I’m going to touch upon are what Amazon might be able to do that would allow citizen philanthropists—that is, individuals and not large companies—to help. And I will also talk about ventilators and this is new specifically for healthcare workers to increase the capacity of ventilators.
And actually I’ll speak to that first. A lot of talk right now is about manufacturing ventilators because cities are likely, not certain, but very likely to face in the United States and elsewhere, shortages of ventilators. We saw this in Italy and elsewhere where physicians had to make the decision of who would live and who would die. And calculating the number of likely healthy years that someone might have and choosing accordingly, things of that type.
It would be best if our physicians don’t have to make those choices. This is not a 0.001% likelihood. This is a, I’m not going to say probable, but very possible problem that we will experience in the United States. And while we are manufacturing ventilators, there are techniques for modifying ventilators so that you can use a single ventilator, not on one person but two or four and I’ve put up a blog post describing this. This is all provided to me and vetted by people in the medical community at tim.blog/ventilator. So if you go to tim.blog/ventilator, that will show you—it also talks about some of the complexities—how to modify existing ventilators without new shipments of ventilators so that you can increase capacity. There are also some other options that I outlined in that blog post.
So for that, if you are in the hospital systems, healthcare communities, some of you will already be familiar with some of these options, but many of you will not. Please go to tim.blog/ventilator and you will find that information. All right, so we’ve covered temp housing, we’ve covered food, we’ve covered the personal protective equipment, ventilators, at home testing. I said I’ll keep people apprised of via email and also on social. And really last because I don’t have a solution for childcare. That is another one that healthcare workers really need help with. I don’t have a solution or a proposed solution right now for that.
Amazon can do something interesting here, and I suspect they already are on some level, but to really make it publicly known and available so that people can help. Amazon can create gift cards, vouchers that are restricted to, for instance, protective equipment. And my understanding could be incorrect, but that this would not then be taxable to the recipients as long as these are things that are absolutely needed. And this also helps to minimize the likelihood of fraud because one of the issues related to trying to help is that fraudsters and cons and charlatans will pop up and try to take advantage of these opportunities. So Amazon can mitigate against that by creating gift cards and vouchers that are restricted to protective equipment so that you could, for instance, go in, buy these cards and then provide them to your local hospital or local ER or anywhere you grew up or wherever you’d like to help.
There’s probably a more elegant solution to distributing that widely, but Amazon is in a fantastic position to do a lot of good, and I’m sure they’re already doing a lot, @Amazon, of course, on Twitter.
So that’s a lot in one episode. I know this is more of a PSA and a call to action than anything else, but really we’re going to get through this. We will get through this. And right now if you are able, it is the time to be a generous lifeguard, not a selfish drowning person. There are people who are drowning. There are people who really need assistance financially and if you have trouble paying for food, paying bills, other needs, et cetera, please go to findhelp.org and you can find free and reduced cost services for many things in every city in the United States.
But some of us are in positions to help. More of us are in positions to help than might realize that is the case. And as one of the doctors in New York City told me, every small act goes a long way, especially given how much fear there is among the staff, medical staff that is, they’re being maxed out. And even just a thank you when you see them on the street or if you see them on the street, if you want to say something to them on social media, it can be incredibly meaningful.
Where millions of people now get to work from home for safety, these incredible people do not have that option. And many of them take very seriously the oaths they’ve made to protect and serve us. And in exchange, or at the very least, we need these people properly fed, rested, and able to continue fighting. We all depend on them.
So last but not least, say your thanks. Do it on social media. Say it to anyone you know who’s involved on the front lines. They’re going to be separated from their families in some cases, for extended periods of time. These are our first responders in frontline of defense and I’m taking it very, very seriously because we all depend on them. We have all depended on them and sometimes we just don’t realize it. But that is always true. And one option, this may not be the best option, but in showing your solidarity, you could choose, for instance, the color green and just create a boundary or some type of highlight in your social profile that says, “I support medical,” right?
So #supportmedical, support medical, support medical, #supportmedical and the color green, right? That’s one thing that you can do, even if you don’t have any money, any contacts, any ability to think about Flexport, Uber Eats, any of these things that I’m talking about.
What else can you do to help? You can also take some of these links that I am sharing, including tim.blog/ventilator for modifying and increasing capacity of ventilators or tim.blog/fightcovid where I will eventually be sharing different targeted, vetted options for people who want to help. And I would say that is probably enough for this episode. So thank you so much for listening. I appreciate you all. I am really trying to put in the good fight to help as much as possible. I realize how fortunate I am to be safe, to have food, and I take that as a moral obligation to do what I can to fight for people who are fighting for us.
Thanks so much for listening.
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