*Original Post February 26th, 2020
*Updated March 2nd, 2020
*Updated March 12th, 2020
This may be too early, but we decided to be proactive about it all. With the spread of this new virus throughout Asia, the Middle East, Italy, and now the US, we thought it might be a good idea to share what this means for Ujido, the world, and you. There will be some disruptions to supply chains and our lives in the near future. Here is what we know and what you should know too.
No Need to Panic, But Prepare
Most news reports and articles have painted the viral outbreak with one of two brushes. One brush is pure doom and gloom, full of fear. The other brush says there’s nothing to worry about, that we’re all fine, and this will pass without affecting us much, that this is just the flu. We think it’s best to fall somewhere in the middle. Panic and fear do us little good, but companies, communities, and individuals should still be preparing for the potential shifts ahead. This is not just the flu.
How Has it Affected Ujido?
Not much, so far.
Unlike some companies, Ujido is 100% authentic Japanese matcha. We do not source matcha from China, which isn’t true matcha, but ground up tea leaves that haven’t been grown under shade or hand-picked for the tenderest of leaves. “Matcha” from China is bitter, lacking in green color, and lower in quality. We expect some companies that peddle this type of matcha will run into supply issues soon as many ships are not leaving China.
Ujido has suspended travel both internationally and domestically. We decided not to attend the Natural Product Expo West conference. We will also look at upcoming conferences and make decisions about those as the situation unfolds. We have urged our packaging and distribution centers to prepare new policies. They are following suit.
Will it Affect Ujido?
We don't foresee major disruptions yet. The coronavirus has reached Japan, but the product we are selling now left Japan months before it struck Asia. If it continues to spread in Japan, we may see some supply issues toward the end of this year and into 2021. It depends on how far it spreads, what regions of Japan are affected, and if it continues into the matcha harvest seasons. We’ll tackle those as they come. We expect the virus to ebb away some during summer and then hit again in fall.
Can I Catch the Virus from Ujido?
No. All our matcha left Japan before the virus arrived. It was harvested, dried, and powdered months ago. It left Japan, arrived in the United States, and was packaged in clean rooms in Utah, before the virus spread to the US. It ships from Utah too, where only a few cases have popped up. Our packaging and distribution centers are working on new cleansing, sick leave, and product protection policies right now.
Can I Catch the Virus from Other Packages?
There have been some social media posts that suggest you could catch Covid-19 from packages shipped to you, from bubble wrap made in China, and from products that originated in China. This is false.
The virus only lives a few days outside human hosts. There are some studies that suggest this can reach up to 9 days in certain environments, but that’s with perfect temperature, the right humidity, indoors, and away from fresh air and light. The most recent study suggests it lives a few hours to a few days. Cardboard was less than 24 hours. The virus does not survive large fluctuations in temperature, being dried out, or being exposed to sunlight for long.
Any product you buy online, even if it originated in China, has been shipped overseas via boat, sat in warehouses for some time, been exposed to differing temperatures, endured drying air from heaters and air-conditioning, and possibly seen sunlight at many points during this process. This includes bubble wrap. The air inside those bubbles has been trapped there for months or years by the time you get them.
Even if an infected person were to touch a package, the sunlight, temperature differences, and fresh air that its exposed to between then and arriving would destroy the hardiest of coronaviruses. If you are still concerned, set any package and its contents out in full sunlight for a half an hour or clean them with disinfectant wipes. Either one is effective.
What Will Ujido Do Now?
We'll do the same as the rest of the world. We'll watch, wait, prepare as best we can, and hold on to hope for our friends and loved ones in our headquarters in Japan and throughout the world. We'll stay transparent and keep you all up to date with what we know as we go. We'll be real about how this affects us.
Now, to get real with you about how this might affect you, because it's important that all of you are preparing too.
Are We in a Pandemic?
Yes. We called it on February 26th. The WHO (World Health Organization) finally caught up with what was obvious on the 11th of March.
A pandemic is when any disease spreads beyond attempts to contain it throughout the world. We are there now.
The WHO resisted categorizing the viral spread as a pandemic, despite it fitting their definition weeks ago, and briefly decided they would no longer use the term. The United States CDC (Center for Disease Control) also stayed very positive about containment, but changed their tune on the 25th of February, urging companies, communities, and individuals to prepare for “major disruptions” soon.
Both organizations became much more insistent that we prepare around the middle of March.
Pandemic is a scary word, but it does not mean we should panic. It just means we need to start taking steps to control and slow the spread of the illness while we develop vaccines and treatments. Everything that comes after a pandemic is declared is designed to ease the burden on hospitals and health care providers.
Do I Need a Mask?
Possibly, but not necessarily, especially as you may not be able to find any.
The surgical masks you see many Asian people wear do not protect you from viral infections. They protect other people from you when you are sick, catching the droplets when you cough or sneeze. They are a courtesy to others more than a deterrent. They also serve as a reminder not to touch your face as often, which is a huge factor in spreading diseases, including colds, the flu, and the coronavirus.
N95, R95, P95, and P100 masks and respirators may offer you some protection from the virus, but many health care providers have gotten sick even while wearing these. The virus may be too small to be completely captured by the filters. Once again, they do serve as reminders not to touch your face, including your eyes, though.
The time to get such masks and respirators may have passed. They are becoming very difficult to find. Hardware and automotive stores still have some, but these are disappearing now too.
This is a problem, but not for most individuals. These masks are much needed by health care professionals, who are on the front lines with any new illness and require the slightly higher level of protection these offer. The high demand in other countries has depleted reserves, the quarantines in China have caused factories making them to shut down, and hoarding has taken most of what remains.
Do not be a hoarder! Distancing yourself from others, washing hands often, and avoiding touching your face is as effective as a mask for those of us not caring for the infected.
What Disruptions Should I Expect?
The CDC said disruptions are coming, but what are they? As we’ve seen in other countries, many people have been asked to stay home, avoid unnecessary travel, and not gather in groups. Italy extended this to the entire country suddenly and without much warning. These measures will come to United States.
Companies are beginning to recommend working from home, teleconferencing, and remote operations when possible. Travel restrictions between states, between cities, and even within cities are a big possibility. Cities and towns may be quarantined, where people are asked to stay indoors away from other people for some time. School closures are very probable. Churches may ask people to worship at home. And other large conferences, concerts, sports events, and gatherings may be cancelled.
We saw our predictions come true on the 11th of March as an NBA game was cancelled and a major US religion asked worshipers to stop larger gatherings.
None of these things are to make you worry or panic. This simply helps slow the spread of the virus, giving us time to take care of those infected, prepare and test treatments, and create vaccines.
How Should I Prepare?
We’ve seen panic buying in China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, and now the US with grocery shelves stripped bare, carts full as people hoard the available resources. It doesn’t have to look like that. Costco has been hit hard, but many regular grocery stores have not. Those are your best bets.
Now is the time to prepare yourself for the possibility you may be asked to shelter in place, self-quarantine, or stay indoors for two to four weeks. Do not become a hoarder! You do not need to take food away from others.
Go shopping this week, buy what you would normally, but add a few extra of each less perishable item you normally get. Think pasta, rice, canned soups, food in jars, rice, beans, and other things that store well and require little prep. Remember, you only need enough to make it through several weeks. Many of us have this in our pantries already. There is no need to go overboard or overspend. Once again, do not become a hoarder! It’s an ugly look.
Make sure you have other typical necessities on hand too, like toilet paper, toiletries, medications, pet food, basic first aid, and batteries.
Toilet paper is now impossible to find, thanks to severe panic buying. You don't need a year's worth of toilet paper. You need maybe a month or two. Didn't get your normal supply and looking now? Try office supply and dollar stores. Many of those still have some. Use paper towels, tissues, napkins, or a shower if you run out and shelves are still bare.
What About Water?
Yes, you can buy some bottled water, but communities will also do their best to keep services up and running, even in a full quarantine. You are unlikely to run out of water, but it is still wise to prepare some. At the beginning of a shelter in place order, fill up any large containers you have with water, just in case you need them. Keep them covered in a cool, dry place. Use these only if water is shut off.
What About Power and Gas?
Like water, communities will be working hard to keep these going. It is a good idea to have alternate lighting options available, just in case. Flashlights with working batteries, lanterns, and candles are all good things to have on hand.
Refill propane tanks now, if you have them. Save meals that require little to no cooking for later and eat meals that require power or gas earlier in any shelter in place situation. Your fridge will remain cool enough to preserve food for about three days after losing power, as long as you don’t open the door frequently.
Have non-powered entertainment on hand. That means puzzles, books, board games, and card games. You want things to do while stuck inside if you do lose power for a spell.
How Else Can I Prepare?
Begin working from home sooner than later. Cancel unnecessary travel plans. Avoid gatherings of people, large, medium, and even fairly small. Don’t shake hands. Avoid touching hard surfaces that others have touched in public, especially indoors.
Don’t go to work, meetings, church, or any gathering when sick. Don’t travel when sick. Wear a surgical mask if you are sick, especially if you head out in public to see your doctor or visit the ER. Call your doctor or the hospital before you do go in, to make sure they are ready for you. If you don't have a mask and are sick, cover your mouth and nose with something. Think bandanna, scarf, t-shirt. Anything is better than nothing. If you aren't sick, avoid people who are obviously sick. Keep your distance, at least a meter (3 feet).
Wash your hands often and well, especially before eating and after touching hard surfaces outside your home. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, once again especially after touching hard, non-porous surfaces in public. You should wash your hands with antimicrobial soap for at least 20 seconds, making sure to clean under nails, between fingers, and around thumbs. Alcohol-based disinfectant is not a replacement for hand washing, but is a good option when hand washing is unavailable. Rub it in well, getting under nails, between fingers, and around thumbs. Disinfect hard surfaces at home and at work. Disinfect your phone at least once a day, though more is better.
Cough or sneeze into tissues, rather than into open air or into hands. Cough or sneeze into your elbow if you have no tissues on hand. Do your best to be considerate of others.
Don’t race to the hospital as soon as you feel sick, but also don’t hold off if you have a very high fever or feel shortness of breath. Again, call your doctor or the hospital first to warn them you may be infected and plan on coming in. Follow any directions or guidelines they give you.
Do not panic. Do not hoard. And do not be racist. Being terrible to a Chinese person, an Iranian, or an Italian will not protect you from any illness. These types of actions help no one.
Will I Get Sick?
Most likely at some point.
This isn’t to scare you. It is just likely that within the next few years, you may catch this new virus. It’s new, so we have no natural immunity, it seems highly contagious (at least as contagious as the flu, though probably slightly more so), and it most likely will stick around to join our seasonal colds and flu. Do not get complacent if it does become less of a problem during the summer months. It will hit again hard come fall. Epidemiologists say 40 to 70% of the world's population will catch it by the end of the year. That is not a small number.
Getting sick isn’t the end of the world though. About 80% of people get mild cold-like symptoms and recover. About 10 to 15% develop pneumonia and need advanced care. Then about 5% need critical care. These too can recover with proper treatment, especially as we learn more about what drugs/treatments work specifically against Covid-19.
And about 2% die according to current numbers. It may be higher in Italy and Iran. These show up to 6% of known cases dying. This mortality rate is definitely higher than the flu by at least 20 times. We can lower it if we don’t overwhelm hospitals like we’ve seen in Italy. A stressed and overextended health care system is a huge contributing factor to the mortality rate. We've seen the opposite in some other countries, like Singapore and South Korea, where they've done aggressive testing, treatment, containment, and preparation with far fewer cases and deaths.
Do not minimize this number though by saying the flu is worse, other diseases are worse, that it only effects the elderly, or that its nothing to worry about because 98% of people recover fine. 2% is not small. The elderly and immune-compromised individuals you speak of are still people who contribute to the global economy, their communities, and their families. It will have huge impacts. This will be tens of millions to hundreds of millions by the end of the year and into the next. It will be one to two million in the United States alone.
It is also the 10 to 15% of those needing advanced care you have to worry about. Our hospitals are not prepared for an influx of this magnitude if large parts of the population get sick at once. Italy's healthcare system is in crisis, with doctors working in triage mode, where they have to decide who gets treatment or not, and not just for the coronavirus. As beds fill up, they have to turn away severe injuries, heart attacks, stokes, and more. We do not want to get to this point where more people die of treatable illness and injury.
Remember, everything we do now is to slow the spread, not necessarily stop the virus. With the virus spreading to new countries daily, the time for full containment has passed. So, now we do our part to slow it down, so those who get sick also get the best care with less strain on hospitals and staff. This is the best way to keep the mortality low, make sure your loved ones are taken care of if they get sick, protect healthcare providers, and make sure there aren't additional deaths from other sources due to full hospitals, overworked staff, lack of equipment, and poor treatment.
New treatments for this virus will follow shortly. And a vaccine will follow within a year and a half. In the meantime...
Stay well. Stay safe. Stay calm.
We'll keep you informed with how this evolving issue continues to affect our business and our lives. Thank you.