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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Paul Marotta/Getty Image

Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg thought Mark Zuckerberg was "nuts" when he raised the possibility in January 2020 that 50,000 Facebook employees might have to work from home. By March 6, they were.

Why it matters: In an interview Monday with Axios Re:Cap, Sandberg explained how Facebook moved quickly to respond to the pandemic with grants for small businesses and work-from-home stipends for its employees, and how the company has been watching the unfolding crisis for women in the workforce.

Flashback: "In January, Mark told me and others that we should get ready for the possibility that we would all have to work from home and there might be a pandemic," Sandberg told Axios Re:Cap host Dan Primack.

  • "And I thought he was nuts. I was like, 'What do you mean there'd be a pandemic. What's a pandemic? And would we really work from home?' But he said, 'No, no. It's possible that everyone's going to have to, like, go home.'"

What happened: Sandberg called the pandemic a "crisis for women," but said Facebook was able to retain people by providing additional COVID leave so their "attrition rates of women are not higher than our attrition rates of men."

  • "I definitely heard later that people followed some of the examples we set and I was happy about that. For women out there, I wish more companies did more of it."
  • "We gave everyone $2,000 to just buy stuff they needed."

The big picture: Sandberg said 50,000 employees and tens of thousands of contractors were affected by those early decisions. The company "reached 2 billion people with the right authoritative information on coronavirus" on Facebook itself.

  • "We gave hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to 30,000 small businesses around the world. And then we did another tranche later for Black, small businesses, nonprofits and creators that probably hit thousands more."

What's next: Sandberg said Facebook is exploring more work-from-home options and thinks this changed work forever, but added that she doesn't know what will happen with remote work in general.

  • "We had talked about people working remotely before, and we didn't think it was possible," she said. "Being away is still hard, I think. I don't know what's going to happen with work travel. I don't know how much more we're all going to do."

More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, Axios is looking back at the week of March 9, 2020 — the week high-profile leaders were forced to make consequential choices that upended our lives and society. Subscribe to Axios Re:Cap here.

Go deeper

Chauvin trial leaves cities, activists across America on edge

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The impact of the Derek Chauvin trial is reverberating far beyond the walls of the downtown Minneapolis courtroom.

The state of play: With the trial set to enter its third week, activists across America are watching the proceedings unfold with heavy skepticism that what they perceive as justice will be served.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

The dispiriting housing boom

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's a discouraging scene: Bidding wars, soaring prices, and fears that homeownership is becoming out of reach for millions of Americans. We're in a housing frenzy, driven by a massive shortage of inventory — and no one seems to be happy about it.

Why it matters: Not all bubbles burst. Real estate, in particular, tends to rise in value much more easily than it falls. Besides, says National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun, this "is not a bubble. It is simply lack of supply."

Updated 5 hours ago - World

China's COVID vaccines have low efficacy rates, official says

China Centers for Disease Control director Gao Fu at a March event in Beijing, China. Photo: Han Haidan/China News Service via Getty Images

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention's director said Saturday authorities are considering mixing COVID-19 vaccines because the country's domestically made doses "don't have very high protection rates," per AP.

Why it matters: The remarks by the Gao Fu at a news conference in the southwestern city of Chengdumark mark the first time a Chinese health official has spoken publicly about the low efficacy of vaccines made in China.

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