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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Exile on Corona Street, Day 12


Effective yesterday (Friday, March 27th), the governor of Pennsylvania issued a "Stay At Home" order for Lackawanna and Luzerne counties.  Details can be found HERE.  From a practical standpoint, it really doesn't change much for me or Ms. Rivers, as we were pretty much just staying home anyway.  The hope is though that more folks will be more cautious in the days and weeks to come.

I get, by the way, how difficult this is for many.  Heck, I don't like to socialize, but even I am starting to get some cabin fever.  The reality though is that the alternative is worse.

In terms of where Pennsylvania is at this point (7:15pm on Saturday, March 28th), there have been 28,005 residents tested for Covid-19, of which 25,254 have had negative results (90.2%) and 2,751 (or 9.8%) have had a positive result.  There have been 34 fatalities attributed to Covid-19, make the death rate 1.2%.  Current numbers can be found HERE.  I mention this not out of some morbid curiosity, but rather to (at least for me) put this in perspective:  While this is terrible...and we need to do everything possible to end this as soon as possible...the infection rate is still relatively low.  Assuming that the total number of cases (28,005) is dramatically understated and that the real number is actually triple that (84,015), the infection rate in the general population would stand at 0.6%*.  AGAIN, my point isn't that "this is a very low number, therefore we don't have to worry about it"...instead, it's "this is a low number, so if we act now, we can potentially save a lot of lives".

The above noted, any life lost to this is a tragedy.  For example, I learned last night that one of the people who hired me at Prudential in 1988, and who was my first Director, recently passed away as a result of the pandemic.  Augie (August) A. Urgola, was one of a kind individual.  I could spend the next 5,000 words telling "Augie Stories", but I'll just list two:
  • First - It was 1990 (or so) and one of my clients was laying off a ton of people.  I was talking to Augie about it, and he said in complete sincerity, once the business side of our conversation was over, that it (laying off people) was terrible and that one of the things companies are supposed to do is employ people.  I was 26 years old at the time, and that perspective has stayed with me all these years later.  I've thought about that conversation every time I was laying people off or getting laid off myself**.  This was Augie's simple but profound wisdom at work.
  • Second - It was 2012 (or so) and I was a Director in HR, conducting some kind of training in our Woodbridge, NJ office.  The class was gathering, and the doors were still open.  Just as I was about to begin, Augie, walking by, sees me, comes into the classroom, lets out a very loud hello, shakes my hand as if I was his long-lost son, asks me how I was doing (etc.) and then proceeds to tell the entire class...the room was "make sure you listen to Steve...he's really smart" (or something like that).  Understand I had not seen Augie for a couple of years, and by then he was a very successful Sales VP.  In a large, formal, sophisticated company like Prudential, well, people just didn't do that sort of thing.  But Augie was an original, and he did.  I don't have enough words in me to say just how happy that simple gesture made me feel.
I could tell a few more (including a time when Augie and I were in Kansas City, MO or the time a bunch of us got Augie talking about the JFK assassination), but I'm just one voice in a chorus of people who have countless Augie stories.  Anyway, may Augie Rest in Peace.  You can read Augie's obituary HERE.

Sadly, there will be more Augie-like stories to come.  This is all the more reason we need to take steps now to prevent even more tragedies.  This, all of this, matters.

On that note, I am a bit drained.

Oh, and before I forget, let's be careful out there.

* * * * * *

(*) Based on a total population of 12,820,878 (source HERE).

(**) I went into my former office yesterday morning to pack my stuff and bring it home.  As I was packing, that very same Augie story came to mind.  A day and a half later, I find myself thinking that, while in the past CEOs were lauded for making tough decisions...including to "rightsize" their organizations...maybe now we'll save the lauding for CEOs that do the opposite...that find a way to keep people employed through these difficult times.  Augie would approve.

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