A top VC firm is asking employees to log everywhere they go in case they catch the coronavirus, saying they have a ‘moral responsibility’ to stem the spread

  • Lux Capital, a venture capital firm, is asking its employees to keep a log of places they go, from conferences to church, as the coronavirus spreads.
  • Managing partner Josh Wolfe told Business Insider the firm has a moral obligation to take preventative measures to stem the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
  • The goal of social distancing is to lower the number of people who are sick, so that the healthcare system isn’t overwhelmed, and patients who need life-saving care have access to it.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The founders of Lux Capital, a venture capital firm with offices in New York and Menlo Park, California, sent a memo to their 20 employees last week, encouraging them to keep a log of places they go in case they catch the novel coronavirus.

The firm said that a written record is useful “in the low probability you end up a node or vector in transmission.”

“Health officials and epidemiologists are trying to trace and map networks to help slow and reduce spread. Concerts, conferences, airports, places of worship, schools — everywhere people gather together — are all currently amplifiers of the risk of spread,” the firm’s cofounders and managing partners Peter Hébert and Josh Wolfe wrote in an internal memo.

Lux’s recommendation to employees goes beyond asking them to work from home, although the firm is also telling them to avoid meetings and travel. It asks them to create a routine that makes them part of the solution if they become infected.

Wolfe told Business Insider that the firm has a “moral responsibility” to act.

lux capital
Peter Hébert and Josh Wolfe are the cofounders and managing partners of Lux Capital.
Lux Capital

We’ve shared an excerpt from the memo with Lux’s permission below.

One partner says it’s the ‘reasonable and responsible thing to do’

Lux employees are taking the guidance seriously, according to the firm.

Zavain Dar, a partner at Lux Capital, works from his Manhattan apartment. His log is short: He stops into a bodega for supplies and an occasional coffee, as a treat, and spends most of the time in virtual conference rooms on Zoom.

Dar, who focuses on software companies using machine learning and artificial intelligence, said social distancing to minimize people’s risk is the “only reasonable and responsible thing to do.”

“Ultimately we (the lucky in tech and VC) will be far better off than society’s most vulnerable: those living hand to mouth, week to week, and those over 60 or immunocompromised,” Dar said in a Twitter direct message. “Keeping a log and avoiding spreading risk are two easy asks, and quite frankly, the least we as individuals can all do during this time.”

Lux’s employees have a lower risk of dying from the coronavirus

In total, the US has reported 1,358 cases of the coronavirus across nationwide.

But it doesn’t affect all patients equally.

The recent data from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggest a person’s chances of dying from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, increase with age. The disease most seriously affects patients in their 70s and 80s, likely because many of those people have preexisting health problems.

Here’s the death rate for each age bracket, according to the center’s study:

covid 19 death rate by age chart

Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Lux’s Wolfe said the firm has a “moral responsibility” to take precaution because most employees are young and healthy.  The goal of social distancing is to lower the number of people who are sick, so that the healthcare system isn’t overwhelmed, and patients who need life-saving care have better access to it.

“The moral responsibility is twofold and comes from our ability through our action to reduce risk of human suffering — specifically elders (the most vulnerable) — and to also reduce risk that otherwise healthy among us would have to use scarce resources (hospital personnel, attention, equipment) that would be more critically useful for others,” Wolfe told Business Insider in an email Thursday.

He’s still going into the Manhattan office, but he walks instead of riding the subway. The employees who do work there are mindful of using their elbows on the elevator buttons and washing their hands frequently. Most staff are working from home, though it’s not a requirement.

new york face mask coronavirus
People wear face masks as a precaution against coronavirus in New York.
Getty Images

He’s also keeping a log of the places he goes, such as the doctor’s office for a routine visit, his children’s schools, the gym, and a Starbucks. He allows the Google Maps app on his phone to always track his location, as a backup record.

Lux isn’t the only venture capital firm encouraging employees to work from home.

The staff at Sequoia and Accel, two of the most prolific venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, are working from home.

Here’s an excerpt of the internal memo provided by Lux Capital:

On avoiding meetings and travel for Lux, there are two considerations: (1) health and (2) moral. 

The main reason to avoid meetings or travel for health reasons is to decrease the risk you are exposed or infected (or a family member — young or old; or a colleague). The risk of contraction for our cohort is low (though both NYC and Menlo offices have a flow of visitors who are well-connected, highly-networked, high-frequency travelers) and in the event of contraction, the likelihood for our cohort of recovery is high.

The main reason to avoid meetings or travel for moral reasons is twofold: (1) to decrease the risk that any of us unintentionally serve as a vector that contributes to amplify the virus’s spread. And (2) to decrease the risk that any of us or our immediate network currently healthy become sick and consume scarce healthcare resources (attention or energy of personnel, equipment, medicine, respirators, oxygen) which would otherwise be critical for a greater at-risk population. The greatest risk and greatest fatalities are occurring with the elderly (folks over 60+) and people with pre-existing conditions or immune-compromised.

We also recommend keeping a running log of places you go as in the low probability you end up a node or vector in transmission, health officials and epidemiologists are trying to trace and map networks to help slow and reduce spread. Concerts, conferences, airports, places of worship, schools — everywhere people gather together — are all currently amplifiers of the risk of spread.

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