Stepping Up During COVID-19
How Fair Team Members Are Doing Their Part During the Coronavirus Shutdown
LOS ANGELES – When COVID-19 began putting the world in shutdown mode last month, Laura Petersen wanted to help those on the front lines of the pandemic while heeding orders from health officials to stay home.
An avid seamstress, the fraud specialist in Fair’s Phoenix office soon found a solution: making custom face masks for a pharmacist friend and his colleagues – and anyone else who needed one.
“When the instructions came out that we should all be wearing face masks, I’m like, ‘OK, I have fabric. I have the sewing machine. This is something I can do,’” Petersen said.
She’s one of a number of Fair team members using their hearts, heads and hands to contribute during the coronavirus pandemic – whether getting groceries for a neighbor or spearheading an alliance of health and tech officials looking to find a solution.
For Petersen’s part, she said she’s able to crank out “six or seven” masks each night by working for a few hours in her craft room, which also now doubles as her home office. She said the face mask project allows her to indulge her passion for sewing while helping make the people she cares about safer.
“I’ve sent masks to my coworkers and I even sent one to my mother-in-law,” Petersen said. “She can actually sew herself, but who doesn’t like to get snail mail, right?”
A sampling of the homemade face masks sewn by Fair Fraud Specialist Laura Petersen.
For Ryan Naughton, Fair’s Director of Engineering, the itch to get involved hit him on a Sunday night in mid-March when he realized his predictions on COVID were starting to come to fruition in the U.S.
“I was reading COVID-19 articles all night, and I was frustrated by the inaction of our government when faced with this crisis compared to countries like Singapore and South Korea,” Naughton said. “I realized part of these Asian countries' success was their use of technology to empower public health departments and combat the epidemic. Given that I am a technologist and my wife is a public policy expert, our dinner table conversations tend to revolve around this topic. At 5 in the morning I realized, ‘I don't have to just have anxiety about this. I can actually do something.’”
That something turned out to be founding the COVID Alliance, a collection of data scientists, policy-makers, epidemiologists, technologists as well as government and healthcare officials looking to combat COVID-19’s spread through both tech and policy initiatives.
“There are other groups that are primarily focused on a tech solution to this problem, but many haven’t really thought through how they interface that with the wider public policy, public health, and governmental ecosystem,” Naughton said.
Fair Director of Engineering Ryan Naughton founded the COVID Alliance to combat the coronavirus pandemic through both tech and policy initiatives.
First using his vacation time and now taking a temporary unpaid leave of absence from Fair, Naughton is volunteering full-time on the project. The COVID Alliance has more than 140 volunteers, including more than a dozen people who work full-time on the project and around 30 daily active contributors. Naughton said several other Fair team members have worked on the project in areas like design, coding, legal support, project management and epidemiology research.
The alliance has already launched a contact-tracing mobile app through its partner Coalition Network, and is currently demoing a pandemic containment tool to state and local COVID task forces across the country that helps governments measure social distancing and understand its relationship to the spread of the disease.
“We can use opt-in smart phone location data to measure things like whether there are too many people in a grocery store, for example. And if so, the public health department can reach out and actually help them improve their social-distancing policies,” Naughton said.
Grocery stores were also on the mind of Fair Human Resources VP Jill Roe when she considered ways she might be able to help while under self-quarantine at her family’s house in West Los Angeles.
While Roe felt comfortable donning a mask and gloves for regular grocery runs to the Ralph’s near her house, she was concerned about her neighbors of 20 years, Jean and Norm, doing the same. Both are seniors with no relatives in the area, and Roe said she wasn’t about to let them go to the grocery store given the increased coronavirus risk they would likely be facing.
So shortly after California’s social-distancing measures were announced, Roe knocked on their door to insist on getting their groceries for them. And while they were initially hesitant, the couple was also very clear about how dangerous such a trip might be for them.
Fair VP of Human Resources Jill Roe on a recent grocery run for her and her neighbors.
“They knew they needed to say yes to this,” Roe said. “Jean was worried that me shopping for them meant that I would have to be in the store for that much longer, but I have teenage boys. I'm going down every single aisle every time I shop, so getting another 10 items for them is not a big deal.”
Roe said she uses her Fair car, a black Toyota Highlander, to make a couple grocery trips per week for her family and neighbors.
“I usually give them 24 hours’ notice so Jean can figure out what they need,” Roe said. “And then when I go over the next day, she gives me an envelope with her Ralph's card, her credit card and a little pile of coupons, and I'm off.”
Roe said while her efforts may be minor in comparison to the people on the front lines of the pandemic, helping out her neighbors was a “total no-brainer.”
“So many people are doing these big, heroic things, but this is sort of my small contribution on obviously the most local of levels,” Roe said.