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Coinbase COVID-19 Email Send (2.24.20)

Return to the overview COVID-19 Coinbase Response Overview

Subject: An update on the coronavirus

Hey all,


  • We continue to believe the risk of COVID-2019 coronavirus to most employees is low, with a slightly elevated risk to our team in Japan.

  • Even so, we’re now suggesting that individuals should start doing some simple contingency planning.

  • Business travel to China and Hong Kong is still restricted. Additionally, we have added Japan, Italy, and South Korea to the business travel restricted list.

  • Please flag any personal travel to—or layovers in—countries on the restricted list to GSOC so we can help you make a plan (instructions here).

  • Stop by #ask-security with questions and for weekly updates.

It’s been three weeks since our last email update, so I wanted to provide an update both around what is known about COVID-19 and what Coinbase is doing.

We still do not see community transmission in or around Coinbase offices, with the exception of our Japan office. For Japan specifically, we’ve put our tier 1 response plan into place (see below for more) and, among other things, are encouraging everyone in that office to work from home.

However, given the continued spread of COVID-19, we feel that it is reasonable for individuals in locations not yet impacted by the virus to begin some personal contingency planning and preparation. In the event of a local transmission hotspot, the key to safety will be “social distancing,” aka making sure we give the virus limited means to spread person-to-person. You may also see moves from local governments to put travel restrictions in place. Your preparations should focus on what will enable you to minimize your contact with and dependency on others. In particular, we encourage people to ensure they have adequate supplies of food, medicine (in particular, prescription medication) and critical household goods (think batteries, trash bags, hygiene supplies, etc.) to last at least 30 days.  

What we know

We’re continuing to monitor the situation closely and gather data from primary sources where possible (including the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local public health offices and retained consultants).

COVID-19 is a type of coronavirus. It is primarily transmitted by aerosolized droplets  (e.g. the droplets you release when you cough or sneeze.  These droplets can travel over 6 feet if you don’t cover your mouth and nose effectively!), much like the flu or a cold. It may also be transmitted via fecal matter (even very small/invisible amounts). The virus can survive for some amount of time outside the human body, although the specific parameters are not yet known, so transmission can occur by touching a surface contaminated with the virus and then touching your eyes/nose/mouth.  

Unlike most other coronaviruses, the period of maximum contagiousness appears to occur early in the virus’ life cycle, somewhere between 1 and 3 days after the first sign of symptoms. Some number of individuals that contract coronavirus remain asymptomatic, but can still spread the virus (although we don’t know how common this is). The virus’ incubation period appears to be somewhere in the 5-7 day time period on average, but has a fairly wide range (summary of research), and likely depends to a large extent on where the virus lands in a given host (e.g. did the virus get transmitted via someone rubbing their eyes and has to work it’s way to the respiratory tract, or did it land in the lungs directly and can get right to work). According to a study by the CDC in about 80% of cases, symptoms are mild and look a lot like the flu or other viral respiratory illness and may include coughing, fever, body aches, etc. This category of cases generally self-resolve with little to no medical intervention. About 14% of cases develop severe symptoms (including pneumonia or shortness of breath). This category of cases will require medical care, but probably not intensive care. About 6% develop critical symptoms (shock, respiratory failure, etc).  This category of cases will require care in an ICU or similar.

The Case Fatality Rate (CFR, the percent of cases that result in death) is impossible to determine reliably at this point. The WHO quotes a 2% rate, but caveats it extensively. The latest published paper (summary) addressing the topic breaks the CFR down by age group and quotes between a 0.2% and 0.4% CFR for ages 0-40 and significant jumps for groups older than that. The most at risk populations appear to be the very old and those with already weak immune systems. The paper above also addresses comorbid conditions, with the highest CFR being those with Cardiovascular disease at just over 10%, and the lowest being those with no pre-existing conditions at 0.9% (across all age groups).

What we’re doing

We’re continuing to restrict business travel to China and Hong Kong. As of this week, we’re adding Japan, Italy, and South Korea to the business restricted list, as well as mandatory WFH measures to employees returning to Coinbase offices from Japan, South Korea and Italy for a period of 7 days. If you’re planning personal travel to—or layovers in—any country on the restricted list, please reach out to @GSOC so we can work with you. You can find instructions for flagging travel for us here.

We have a standing Crisis Management Team continually reviewing new information as it comes in. We have established a four tier escalation ladder (from tier 0 to tier 3) for response to changes that impact Coinbase offices. The primary criterion for moving up the ladder is the number of community transmission events within a commute radius of a Coinbase office. All Coinbase offices except Japan are at tier 0. Tier 0 includes improved sanitation measures (both in terms of office cleaning and in terms of making things like hand sanitizer available) as well as continuous risk monitoring via a crisis management team. At tier 1, which is currently active for the Japan office, we encourage as much work from home as possible, limit in-office meetings, visits and services and make or review concrete plans to move critical workflows to offices that are not impacted. At tier 2 we close the office to non-essential personnel/activities/events and execute those workload movement plans. At tier 3 we lock down the office entirely, and go to 100% mandatory wfh.

We’ll continue sharing weekly updates on the coronavirus situation in #ask-security, so please join that channel to ask any questions you might have beyond the below FAQs. If you have questions that are specifically about work travel, please post those in #ask-travel.