Mar 31, 2020 - Technology

Coronavirus brings out Silicon Valley's inner problem-solver

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The coronavirus pandemic is bringing out Silicon Valley's penchant for problem solving.

The big picture: Tech companies, entrepreneurs, and investors have rushed to find ways to apply their skills, resources, and creativity to tackling the virus and its public health and economic impact.

A number of health care startups, including Everlywell, Carbon Health and Nurx, shifted quickly to working on developing COVID-19 testing kits.

  • A ban by the FDA on the collection of at-home samples halted some of these efforts.
  • Telehealth startups like Ro and American Well are also providing assessment services that attempt to aid patients figure out their likelihood of infection.

Other companies are tapping into their existing supply chains and expertise.

Many software companies decided to offer some products for free to those coping with the crisis.

  • They include messaging service Slack, meditation app Headspace and business information provider Yext.

Investors jumped into action as well.

Tech giants also moved swiftly to finish projects and build solutions.

  • Companies like Apple and Google set out to procure supplies and stood up websites providing information and guidance to the public.
  • Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and other companies sponsored a coronavirus-focused hackathon.
  • Facebook quickly rolled out information about the coronavirus to its users and banned ads for face masks and cures, while Twitter issued strict rules about spreading misinformation about the pandemic.
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that Facebook will help pay for housing, child care, transportation and other costs incurred by retired health care professionals who agree to work during the pandemic.

Yes, but: Some tech leaders have also been criticized for their armchair epidemiology on Twitter.

The bottom line: Most Silicon Valley leaders and workers understand that the key fight right now belongs to medical science and healthcare professionals, but they're eager to pitch in — and have plenty of both ideas and resources.

Go deeper

Updated 23 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 5,923,432— Total deaths: 364,836 — Total recoveries — 2,493,434Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,745,930 — Total deaths: 102,808 — Total recoveries: 406,446 — Total tested: 16,099,515Map.
  3. Public health: Hydroxychloroquine prescription fills exploded in March —How the U.S. might distribute a vaccine.
  4. 2020: North Carolina asks RNC if convention will honor Trump's wish for no masks or social distancing.
  5. Business: Fed chair Powell says coronavirus is "great increaser" of income inequality.
  6. 1 sports thing: NCAA outlines plan to get athletes back to campus.

In photos: Protests intensify across the U.S. over George Floyd's death

Protesters outside the Capitol in Washington, DC, on May 29. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Mass protests in Atlanta, New York City and Washington, D.C., sparked clashes with police on Friday, as demonstrators demanded justice for the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after at least one police officer knelt on his neck on Monday.

The big picture: The officer involved in the killing of Floyd was charged with third-degree murder on Friday, after protests continued in Minneapolis for three days.

Zuckerberg says Trump’s “shooting” tweet didn’t violate Facebook’s rules

Mark Zuckerberg at the 56th Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany on February 15. Photo: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Facebook did not remove President Trump's threat to send the National Guard to Minneapolis because the company's policy on inciting violence allows discussion on state use of force, CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in a post on Friday.

The big picture: Zuckerberg's statement comes on the heels of leaked internal criticism from Facebook employees over how the company handled Trump's posts about the Minneapolis protests and his unsubstantiated claims on mail-in ballots — both of which Twitter has now taken action on.