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Who profits when a pandemic hits?

As of now, COVID-19 has infected over 3 million people worldwide and killed over 220,000. The virus has not only affected everyone’s lives but also drastically impacted the global economy. Stock markets have plummeted due to the outbreak, with oil stocks leading the decline. However, some companies have been moving in the opposite direction. Companies that provide products and services that are necessary during quarantine are benefiting from the pandemic in contradiction to the millions of employees struggling to keep up with new expectations and stressful circumstances. These include businesses that sell N95 respirators, medical face-masks, and sanitization products. 

Online retailers like Amazon are also on the list due to the thousands of retail stores closing around the US. Amazon is now supplying people with essentials like household items, groceries, and health and personal-care articles. All of Amazon’s main businesses are profiting from the stay-at-home consumer and a more distributed workforce. Both of these had been gaining attention before and are now being boosted by the outbreak. CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, has seen a 23.6 billion dollar increase to his personal finances. In addition, his wealth has climbed by approximately 20% within the span of four months since the beginning of 2020. Amazon has encountered growing customer demand as the coronavirus has people in their houses and on their devices. 

It is no doubt that Amazon has been popular for the past few years since more people have switched their preference to online shopping and grocery store pickup. Although the process is convenient for customers, the situation might lead to a negative factor: that customers might not return back to their old habits, even when the pandemic ends. This year, Amazon itself has up to 40% of all the United States’ online retail stores. Due to the pandemic, this percentage is likely to grow, placing Amazon at an even greater advantage over other retail stores including Walmart, Target, and Fred Meyer. 

However, Amazon does not only find it hard to meet the demand during the COVID-19 pandemic but also, according to an article, the company is showing that they are mistreating their workers. For years, there have been multiple articles stating that Amazon has continued to focus on the efficiency of the company’s fulfillment centers at the expense of worker health and safety, which has led to employee injury and even death. Currently, Amazon’s workers have been working in close proximity to others who might have the virus, putting all of them at risk. 

Netflix, unsurprisingly, is included in this list of companies profiting from this outbreak. The company uses its large library size and recommendation algorithm to its advantage. Most of Netflix’s second-quarter output is ready to premiere on schedule, with new series online to debut. According to Analyst Michael Olsen, the number of Netflix subscribers have increased during the first two months of the year. It is predicted that subscribers will increase by 3.8% per year in the United States and Canada from now on. Moreover, research also suggests that international subscribers will grow by 30.9% in comparison to prior years. Netflix stocks also gained 45% as users opted for an affordable refuge during this time of global crisis. Netflix has set up a fund of 100 million dollars for creatives whose jobs have been affected. In addition to this, the streaming company has also agreed to pay workers two weeks’ worth of wages. 

Zoom is another company on the list and has added 2.22 million more active users so far in 2020. Statistics show that active users increased by up to 21% compared to last year. Because in-person meetings are not an option due to the outbreak, businesses and schools worldwide use Zoom’s video conferencing technology to continue communicating with their employees and students. The company recently removed a 40-minute meeting limit for more than 2 people in meetings for free users in China. Zoom is asking its employees at its headquarters in San Jose to work from home. 

Facebook is both profiting and not at the same time. According to MarketWatch, social-networking services have increased by 50% in countries ravaged by the virus since February, which includes video messaging on Messenger and WhatsApp more than doubling. In Italy, the time spent on Facebook has soared 70% since the Corona Virus outbreak. “In the short term, Facebook, and Google will suffer losses because of their reliance on small businesses that advertise” stated eMarketer senior analyst, Jasmine Enberg. CEO of the company, Mark Zuckerberg, has notified the company’s 45,000 employees that they will all receive their six-month bonuses on top of a 1000 dollar bonus for assistance during the pandemic. The company is also continuing to pay workers although they are being sent home.

Due to the spread being initiated by germs, the demand for hand sanitizer has been increasing rapidly in many countries. As stated in an Adobe analysis, the data showed that the demand for hand sanitizer in the United States has increased by up to 1,400% during December 2019 and January 2020. Since this Corona outbreak led people to panic about their health conditions, hand sanitizers have sold out on Amazon, Walgreens, Walmart, and any local drug store. Online stores are even selling over-priced hand sanitizers to customers. On Amazon, a seller from Italy is offering 3 fluid-ounce bottles worth of hand sanitizer for 66.77 U.S. Dollars. Another seller from Singapore is offering 10 fluid-ounce bottles for 527 U.S. Dollars.

We interviewed some workers in regard to the circumstances COVID-19 has forced upon them and how their workplaces have adapted to them. 

When asked what precautions they have taken to ensure the safety of customers and the prevention of spreading the virus, an employee from Domino’s answered, “We have to wash our hands much more frequently. We have contactless carry-outs and delivery so we are always six feet apart from customers.”

In addition to these precautions, the employee further elaborated, “Only four customers are allowed in the store at a time. Employees have to wear a facemask throughout their shifts and the delivery drivers have to wash their hands every time they leave the store.”

We asked how the store is keeping their space clean and they answered, “We sanitize the store every hour, we also sanitize the food bags every time we give it to the customers.” 

However, in recent weeks, workers, unions, and attorneys have been noticing a drastic increase in cases of bad employer behavior. It is said that employers have been forcing their employees into unsafe working conditions, refusing to distribute protective equipment, and threatening those who speak up or walk out. 

It’s definitely a very hard time for businesses all around and for employers and employees alike. It is important to realize that the precautions are being taken seriously. Some brands and products may profit from this outbreak for some time as people prepare for the worst, but there’s still a lot we have yet to find out about COVID-19. Questions will remain on how each company will treat its customers. Even after the outbreak slows and social life resumes, producers and consumers expect another round of layoffs as people’s jobs are replaced by new ways of working. 

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