Business Headlines

ablokhin/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- After being closed for nearly two months, the New York Stock Exchange will reopen its trading floor on Tuesday at about 25% capacity.

Stacey Cunningham, the president of the NYSE, told ABC News' chief economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis that the decision to reopen was made with the health and safety of employees in mind.

"With the cases in New York City on a decline and with what we've learned about how to protect ourselves from COVID-19, we feel like we can create an environment that reduces risk for people to come back into the trading floor and provide the service they're typically used to providing," Cunningham said.

Most of the traders will continue working remotely and the small number that return will wear masks as they work and follow strict social-distancing requirements, Cunningham noted.

“We're only bringing back about 25% of the trading floor population," she said. "So that enables us to create a new choreography where we won't have people walking across the trading floor."

The interior has also been refitted with plexiglass barriers and markings on the trading floor to keep people six feet apart.

Cunningham told Jarvis there will be enhanced medical screenings for workers, including "temperature checks and questionnaires."

Moreover, all those coming into the NYSE will be asked to avoid public transportation during their commute.

In the first initial phase of reopening, the NYSE will prioritize welcoming back workers from "small, independent firms with sometimes fewer than 20 people that work for them and the majority of their income is tied to their trading on the floor," Cunningham said.

“I think that's an important message for anybody considering they're reopening plans, whether it be in New York or around the country, that if we can focus on those businesses that are impacted the most and allow those that are able to provide a good portion of their services from afar to continue to do so, to limit risk and reduce the spread," she said.

"These reopening plans aren't about going back to normal," she went on. "They're about taking small steps that start to reopen and restart the economy, but still having important measures in place to protect from the spread because we're not on the other side of this yet."

Cunningham said she hopes the reopening of the NYSE will show "there is no keeping us down as New Yorkers" and "as Americans more broadly."

Still, she said her staff is closely monitoring the ever-evolving health crisis.

"If conditions in New York City or where we are or in other locations where businesses are located start to change, we need to be flexible," she said. "It's possible we see a slowdown in the summer and things pick up in the fall and we recognize that we need to start to have plans in place so we can adapt to this new norm."

The reopening of the iconic trading floor comes as pandemic restrictions across the country begin to ease up and the death rate from COVID-19 in the U.S. appears to be stabilizing.

At the same time, the reopening is happening as the nation nears the 100,000 deaths from coronavirus.  

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MayvennBy OLIVIA EUBANKS, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As the rapid spread of COVID-19 disproportionately devastates black communities across the country, African Americans in the hair care business say stay-at-home orders and social distancing has crushed an industry which relies solely on clientele for a steady income.

"When COVID hit it was like losing my livelihood overnight," Tiana Brown, 34, owner of That Chics Hair Suite in New Jersey, told ABC News. "I am a full-time stylist. That is my only income."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in April the number of unemployed people rose by 15.9 million to 23.1 million. Last week alone, 2,438,000 Americans filed for unemployment insurance, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This brings the nine-week jobless claims total since the coronavirus crisis took hold in the U.S. to approximately 38.6 million people.

Appointment bookings have fallen rapidly in the last few months, and with the future of social distancing guidelines uncertain, hair salons and barbershops within black communities have suffered in unforeseen ways, according to African American hairstylists who were interviewed for this story.

In 2017, black consumers spent a total of $473 million in a $4.2 billion hair care industry, according to Nielsen, and in 2018 the black hair care market was valued at $2.5 billion, Mintel, a market research company, reported.

As states begin to reopen their economies, African American hair stylists, who are often classified as freelancers or independent contractors, still face challenges.

Despite the government extending the unemployment benefits of the $2 trillion economic relief bill to gig workers and freelancers, some states have yet to start paying out funds from the new pandemic unemployment assistance program while others scramble to figure out who qualifies.

According to the Small Business Administration, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has provided forgivable loans totaling more than $512 billion to approximately 4.4 million small employers across the country since its launch on April 3. But the funds haven't reached everyone.

Basketball legend Magic Johnson appeared on ABC's Good Morning America last Tuesday to discuss the new program he's creating to help minority and women-owned businesses. He pledged to give $100 million to the businesses struggling to get PPP.

Some stylists told ABC News that they have been without income for at least seven weeks.

Whitney Spencer, owner of Crown Salon Studio in Little Rock, Arkansas, said the process of applying for loans and unemployment is "confusing, slow and unreliable." After applying for unemployment and loans in March, she has yet to receive any money.

"This pandemic is crippling to us African American stylists who were built to hustle" she said.

Hair stylists told ABC they often rely on tips from their clients to balance out their income.

"It's been a financial adjustment, what I receive in unemployment for a week, I can make in a day or two," said Signature Image Salon hairstylist and colorist, Cierra Curenton, who works in Washington, D.C. "I'm single, so I have no one to help carry the financial burden."

To help the black hair business stay afloat, some major companies have partnered to provide financial relief.

Mayvenn hair extension company CEO, Diishan Imira, decided to start a GoFundMe to help get money back in hairstylists pockets.

"It feels good to be able to do something when helplessness consumes our world right now," Imira told ABC News. "Black salons and barbers are the backbone for black entrepreneurship and an integral part of our communities."

Mayvenn hair company has gotten together with financial partners to raise money that they say goes straight into the bank accounts of stylists who use their products and are unable to work. So far they say they've handed out almost $1.3 million with a goal of $2 million by June.

Recipients of the funds like stylists Whitney Spencer and Makayla King have been thankful.

Spencer was relieved to see the standard $500 deposited directly into her bank account.

"I dropped down to my knees. ... I am receiving more help from Mayvenn than my own government," she told ABC News.

Having still not received any unemployment benefits, Spencer says she spends her socially distanced days personally delivering professional hair products to the doorsteps of her clients, holding virtual hair appointments and making short TikTok hairstyle videos to keep up her clientele.

"All I know is hustle," she said.

Makayla King, another Mayvenn recipient, must come up with $1,400 by June to pay her booth rent at the salon for the past two months. After receiving the money from Mayvenn, she said some strain was taken off her.

Despite support from companies like Mayvenn, stylists at some small salons say they may not survive the pandemic.

Signature Image Salon stylist Cierra fears for the financial burden that it places on the owner to keep her shop open.

"Even after this is over, playing catch up could be hard for us," she told ABC News. "We have to learn a new way to do business, and quickly."

Some stylists say they are trying to remain optimistic.

"I would love to see people transitioning back into the salon," Shaleea Womack said.

Womack, 52, owner of Head Over Heels by Shaleea in New Jersey, is preparing for the changes that will come once her salon opens back up.

"Clients can expect major sanitary procedures we learned in cosmetology school to be the 2.0 version on steroids," she said.

Some stylists around the country have already begun taking sanitary measures amid reopening, such as requiring masks for stylists and clients, taking temperature checks at the door and leaving adequate time between clients' appointments to thoroughly clean.

Stylist Tiana Brown, owner of That Chics Hair Suite in New Jersey, says the relationships between stylists and their clients can be like family.

She has been with many of her clients for over 10 years.

"I miss my clients more than I miss some of my own family," Brown told ABC News.

Brown, along with many other stylists, says she will keep faith that their salon will survive the pandemic and clients will return.

"Surviving is the only option for me," she said.

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ucpage/iStockBy ERIC MOLLO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Georgia was one of the earliest states in the country to relax coronavirus restrictions. Businesses are opening back up again across the state, including in Albany, a hard-hit city of over 70,000 people, many of whom are African-American.

Glenn Singfield was born and raised in Albany, Georgia. He is the owner of two restaurants there, The Flint, a sprawling establishment located in a brick building along the Flint River, which runs through downtown Albany, and the smaller but also popular Albany Fish Company, which is currently serving take-out and delivery.

Singfield spoke to ABC News' Cheri Preston, host of ABC News' Perspective Podcast, about managing his establishments during the pandemic and how his region has been affected by the crisis on a special edition of the show, Pandemic: A Nation Divided, examining how COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting Americans along racial and socioeconomic divides.

"Most, but not all the restaurateurs here... we were a bit nervous [following the state's reopening plan]... We were very excited about opening because our customers are asking for us. However, we feel like the city of Albany was a little different than the rest of the cities in the state, so we wanted to take a little bit more precaution."

According to a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, black Americans and Latinos are nearly three times as likely to personally know someone who has died from the virus than white Americans as the coronavirus impacts racial and ethnic minorities disproportionately. Almost three quarters of Albany's population is African-American, and the main hospital in the area, Phoebe Putney, has reported more than 100 deaths from the disease. It is one of Georgia’s hardest-hit areas.

Singfield praised Phoebe Putney's doctors and nurses, saying he and his kids were born in the hospital, and says he has seen the impacts of COVID-19 on Albany, Georgia firsthand:

"I'm a young black man... not as young as I used to be… I'm forty-years-old. I'm from the South. I've seen racism. I think everybody's been treated, for the most part, fairly. However, there are some issues that can be discussed. In my community, the African-American community has been hit the hardest, and I don't know what that attributes to. I don't want to put the blame on what it could be, but it needs to be researched, handled, and figured out why because it's impacting our community tremendously... If you don't have the means and also the knowledge, you don't know what to do, so that could put a strain on a person of color, or not having enough money to take care of themselves. That line has to be taken care of in all communities too. Not just mine."

Singfield hopes businesses are taking precautions to protect their customers, as he said he has done in both of his restaurants, and that they will be responsible as the community continues battling COVID-19.

"I think that the people here want to get out, but there are some people that are moving a little too fast. They're not taking the precautions necessary sometimes.  Most of them do, but you have a couple people here that feels like it's not necessary to do. I wish everybody would get on the same page, so we get a handle on this thing. We just have to do what officials have told us to do."

Listen to the rest of this past week’s highlights from Perspective here.

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Juanmonino/iStock(SONOMA COUNTY, Calif.) -- The California Wine Country has been hit hard in recent years by wildfires and now COVID-19 shutdowns. But this Memorial Day weekend, life is beginning to return once again.

In Sonoma County wineries that serve food and restaurants can now reopen with patio dining only. Seats in dining areas must be spaced apart and patrons must also wear masks.  

Mary Geddling, while getting food at a restaurant in Healdsburg, told ABC News, life hasn't returned to normal yet.

"It is a little stressful.  We want to be respectful of the workers and other patrons," Geddling said. "It's good to be out though."

The region's reopening is in testing phase as of now.  Sonoma County has reported 15 new COVID-19 cases since Friday and is watching to see if numbers rise.

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Elena Medoks/iStockBy PAULINA TAM, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Whitney Hu knows the route by heart. Every Saturday morning, the 29-year-old wakes up at 6 o'clock to go to a theater-turned-warehouse in the heavily immigrant neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in New York City. There, she slips into the routine she has been performing since the start of New York state's coronavirus lockdown in mid-March.

On this particular day, Hu, the head of South Brooklyn Mutual Aid, a local food relief group in the borough, is joined by Shahana Hanif, another 29-year-old spearheading an emergency food program of her own with her younger sister Sabia, 28.

Hu and Shahana proceed to assemble 403 boxes, each of which are filled with enough food to feed a family of five.

This week's menu of free goods includes pasta, rice, bananas, lemons, apples, tomatoes, broccoli, eggs, bread and vegetable oil. Boxes are also customized to include baby diapers, food tailored to specific cultures, and additional resources if they are delivered to larger families.

"The only help we can't provide are rent assistance and COVID-19 funeral assistance," said Hu. "Those are tougher conversations to have, and for now we could only cover their need for food."

The pandemic has thrust the country into a new normal of survival for some. Hu and the Hanif sisters are just three young leaders taking a stand because they say the government is not doing enough to help their most vulnerable neighbors: low-income immigrants and especially the undocumented community, who are not eligible for bare necessities like food stamps and stimulus checks because they either don't file taxes or they don't have Social Security numbers.

California, whose more than two million undocumented residents are the most in any state, is currently the only state in the country to offer coronavirus-related financial support for undocumented immigrants, allocating $75 million to the program. Applications for the funding are approved on a first-come, first-served basis.

"The coronavirus outbreak has revealed so many underlying problems and just how much our undocumented community are suffering," said Sabia, who with Shahana has crowd-raised more than $34,000 to support undocumented Bangladeshis in their hometown of Kensington, Brooklyn, also known as "Little Bangladesh."

The sisters initially started their campaign to help feed the undocumented for the holy month of Ramadan, which ended on Saturday. But they plan to keep going with their operation. To date, the sisters have given 50 neighbors each a $500 grant, along with halal-friendly food.

"These individuals are our construction workers, our grocery store workers, our domestic care workers," said Shahana, adding that the $500 is not enough but that it's a start. "Everyone who can and who is able-bodied is responsible to do something to make sure we can through this together."

"This is also an opportunity for us to give back as a Muslim," added Sabia, referencing "Zakat," one of the five pillars of Islam that centers around donating a portion of one's wealth to help those in need.

The sisters, along with their parents and several of their friends, have given up their stimulus checks to give back to their neighbors.

Approximately 504,000 people in New York City are undocumented, according to a 2019 report by the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. Last Monday, the NYC Health Department released the coronavirus death rate broken down by zip code, and Kensington had 321 COVID-19 deaths so far. Sunset Park had 191.

"We sprung into action not out of a desire to save but out of necessity for our community to stay safe," said Hu of South Brooklyn Mutual Aid, which has, up to now, fed more than 2,000 families.

In addition to making occasional runs to mom-and-pop stores and accepting outside donations, Hu works with wholesale food providers to purchase goods with the money raised by her aid group, which has reached more than $23,000 of its $50,000 goal.

Volunteers, some who are furloughed or laid off, then assist Hu throughout the week. The effort culminates in a mass distribution day each Saturday, where 30-40 vehicles pick up the boxes of food to hand out to families.

"It's safer to have the drivers pick up the goods than have 400 families line up outside," said Hu, adding that they want to limit any possible exposure to COVID-19.

Every week for the past month, the boxes have gone to 20-30 families of children attending an elementary school in Sunset Park.

Claudia Lechuga, 40, is a member of the school leadership team and the Parent Teacher Association at P.S. 516, a "Title I" school that educates some of the country's largest concentrations of low-income students.

"South Brooklyn Mutual Aid has stepped in to provide a lifeline to our community," said Lechuga, who, along with school administrators, has made wellness calls to the families of all the school's students during the pandemic. "But it shouldn't have come to this. It should have come from a structured government role to help all our neighbors."

Some of the biggest fears Lechuga has heard from families are concerns that they won't have enough food and money to pay for rent. But for the time being, Lechuga said, those in need can count on grassroots leadership to help them get through these trying times.

"We are seeing a ripple effect of young people rising up," said Shahana. "My sister and I didn't create a campaign to seek out undocumented people. We knew there were already a large number of people who were going to be affected by the coronavirus."

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iStock/koto_fejaBy: CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Raymond Copeland took pride in his work and being called one of "New York's strongest."

The New York City Department of Sanitation worker even bought a plaque to display in his car reading "strongest," a nod to the epithet for the city agency, his daughter said.

The 46-year-old, who his daughter described as "hardworking" and "full of dad jokes," also loved to lend his Sanitation Department cap to his two young grandsons.

"He had the greatest sense of humor that was so cringeworthy and very awesome," his daughter, Naeemah Seifullah, told ABC News. "If he cared about you, if he loved you, he would go out of his way to do anything for you."

When the city began to shut down and most people were told to stay at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, Copeland found himself among the grocery store clerks, bus drivers, janitors and more newly-classified "essential" workers who continued to go to work every day.

Copeland died of complications from COVID-19 on April 5, approximately a week after falling ill, Seifullah said.

She said she remembers her father as a hero, saying that he did not stop working "until his body forced him to stop." At least 625 New York City sanitation employees have tested positive for COVID and six have died, according to the Department of Sanitation.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit black and Latino communities across the U.S. with furor, infecting and killing people of color at a disproportionate rate compared to white Americans, according to several states' analysis of data.

Some economists attribute these devastating health outcomes to the disproportionate percentage of minorities who are deemed "essential workers" in this crisis, and being asked to continue coming to work -- potentially exposing themselves and their families to the virus -- while many others are able to work from home.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also pinned the overrepresentation of some racial and ethnic groups among critical workers as a possible contributing factor to the higher rates of infections in those communities.

"The risk of infection may be greater for workers in essential industries who continue to work outside the home despite outbreaks in their communities, including some people who may need to continue working in these jobs because of their economic circumstances," the CDC states on its website in a post breaking down "COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups."

People of color (black, Latino, Asian American and other non-whites) account for 43% of all essential workers in the nation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an analysis of data released earlier this week by the Economic Policy Institute. White Americans still make up a majority of essential workers nationally, according to the data.

While black Americans represent just over 13% of the population according to the Census, black workers encompass 15% of all essential workers in the pandemic, according to the EPI data. Meanwhile, Hispanics or Latinos represent just over 18% of the population, but make up 21% of the essential workforce.

In some places in the U.S., including the epicenter of the outbreak where Copeland worked, New York City, black and Latino workers represent an even greater share of the essential workforce.

In New York City, 75% of all the city's essential workers are people of color, according to a report from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

"It seems like people of color are disproportionately contracting COVID, especially if they are disproportionately working in a sector that is deemed 'essential,'" Margaret Poydock, a policy associate at the EPI who co-authored the analysis, told ABC News.

"I think the occupations and industries that are deemed essential now have always been essential, and obviously in a time of crisis, in this coronavirus pandemic, it is imperative that they do receive workplace protections, such as personal protective equipment," Poydock added.

Andre Perry, author of the book Know Your Price and a fellow at the Brookings Institution whose research focuses on race and economic inclusion, told ABC News that, "We’ve known for a long time that black and brown people are disproportionately are in occupations that require us to leave our houses."

Perry cited a study released early the pandemic, in mid-March, which warned less than one in five black workers and approximately one in six Latino workers are able to telework.

"I was in a conversation with scholars where they debated should they be called 'heroes' or 'hostages,'" Perry said of essential workers in the pandemic. "I think they could be considered both."

"They deserve our credit and our admiration, but it's not like they have a choice here," he added. "Go to work or starve."

Years of structural racism in housing, education and across all industries has contributed to the overrepresentation of minority workers in these typically low-wage "essential" positions in the current pandemic, according to Perry.

The EPI data on essential workers found that half of essential industries have a median hourly wage that is less than the nonessential workforce's median hourly wage.

"Pay only reflects what we feel people are worth," Perry said. "They are essential but they are also replaceable, so it reduces the wages that they will get."

Moreover, Perry said that according to his research, people of color are more likely to live in intergenerational housing, oftentimes with older relatives who may be more at-risk to complications from COVID-19.

The CDC also states that multi-generational households, "which may be more common among some racial and ethnic minority families, may find it difficult to take precautions to protect older family members or isolate those who are sick, if space in the household is limited."

As deaths among essential workers -- especially among people of color -- rise during the pandemic, there have been widespread calls for increased access to PPE, hazard pay, better paid sick leave and more worker protections.

While some improvements have been made, advocates say it is still not enough to protect workers. Frontline and essential worker protections are a keystone part of the Heroes Act that passed in the House last Friday, though the measure is not expected to be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“It’s hard to blame any one person or group of people but we’ve developed a culture in which profit margins are more valued than people," Perry said of why it has been so hard to take care of essential workers.

He added that the heads of corporations that "can make adjustments to pay structure that will enable employees to get better benefits" are the people who "don’t come in contact, don’t interact with essential workers."

Poydock said that labor unions have especially stepped up to the plate to fight for workers in the pandemic.

"The Trump administration has not provided these workers with these essential protections," she said. "Unions have been fighting for these workers to receive these protections."

She added that according to their research, "a union worker on average makes about 12% higher on average than their non-union counterpart."

While Seifullah said it's hard to know what better precautions could have been taken for her father, she thinks these essential workers who are risking their lives just to do their job deserve more.

"These people are putting themselves out there to make sure that our way of life is more comfortable," she said. "I know that they deserve a lot and they are being put at risk."

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iStock/coldsnowstormBy: KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Canlis is a renowned fine-dining restaurant that has been a staple of the Seattle restaurant scene for nearly 70 years.

It features a James Beard Award-winning chef and has boasted menu items like caramelized mussels, fried rabbit with garden herbs and soufflé, all prepared as works of art.

But as the coronavirus pandemic tore through the country, first in the Pacific Northwest and then in New York and elsewhere, Canlis and other fine dining establishments have had to do some serious soul-searching as they scrambled to stay alive and afloat amid orders that banished in-person dining.

Even as those restrictions have been eased in recent days, questions remain about what the future of dining will look like and top-notch eateries surveyed by ABC News have answers, from menu changes to mission changes.

The answer, for Canlis was straightforward, but not easy: "fine dining is not what people need right now."

Mark Canlis -- co-owner of the iconic Seattle restaurant with a decades long reputation for outstanding food service -- was among the first to say that out loud.

Shortly after the first U.S. case of the deadly virus hit Seattle in January, Canlis got the team together to assess it options and plan for a new normal, where fine dining would potentially no longer be a fit.

"We sat down and said, 'OK it seems like the writing's on the wall, but what are the new rules here?' And that was the first thing that hit us was, I don't think that fine dining is what people need right now," Canlis said.

After 69 years with three generations of Canlis men at the helm, he said, "now we have an obsolete businesses -- let's just admit it and then we started listing those new rules -- It's easily the hardest thing we've ever done."

Since March, when the restaurant announced it would close its dining room, Canlis has successfully reimagined itself as a multifaceted food supply service.

"Six days later we opened an entirely different company -- we opened three different concepts in a week," Mark Canlis said, excited and proud of their new ventures. "A lot has been stripped away from us and also a lot is still here. And one of the things that's still here is a huge kitchen, a big staff, a willingness to work and we're on a freeway basically," he joked, noting they have found a way to make their relatively undesirable location work to their advantage.

"So we opened as a drive-through," Canlis said. "We could take 20 cars in the driveway and serve eight of them at a time. We completely restructured the entrance to the restaurant and traffic pattern because on day one the lines were over an hour to get a burger."

They utilized their abundant meat supply, which would ordinarily go to a dinner service, ground it up into hamburgers, baked fresh buns and he said the move "was wildly successful."

"The next day we opened up a bagel shed. We happened to have a shipping container in our parking lot that has a bread oven and a flour mill in it. Our expediter who no longer had a job was from [Manhattan's] Lower East Side, this Jewish woman who said, 'I am a bada-- baker,'" Canlis said with a laugh.

Their chef Brady Williams who had tasted her bagels, asked how many she could make in a day and she confidently cranked out 600, Canlis recalled. "So we just opened at 8 in the morning for coffee and bagels and again, the lines were nuts."

On the third day, Canlis started a family meal-delivery service that put its employees, from servers and reservationists to dish washers and pianists, who would have been without jobs, into the driver’s seat -- literally. "We just hired our entire staff as drivers and started delivering the dinners all over the city," he said.

Family box meals change by the day and include options like Wagyu beef meatloaf with spicy ketchup, for instance and dry-aged duck carnitas enchiladas, as well as buttermilk fried chicken and a "weekend kit" that includes burgers, pasta salad and more.

Canlis also began rounding up the produce from its local farm purveyors to sell community-supported agriculture (CSA) boxes. "We started buying from all of our same vendors and when we had all this extra stuff we would make CSA boxes out of them. Then we started delivering cocktail kits and wine out of our cellar," he said.

Their private dining coordinator shared another idea to riff off a game the staff "love to play together" and suggested "what if we play bingo with the city and put bingo cards in the dinners we're delivering, and just livestream it to people?"

So every Friday night at 8:30 p.m. local time, Brian Canlis suits up in a tuxedo and hosts the livestream event "to like 4,000 people," he said. They've even enlisted top-name musical talent to provide some additional entertainment, like The Fray singer Isaac Slade, who will perform next week. "It's the goofiest, hokiest, homespun thing," Canlis said with a laugh, "but hundreds and hundreds of [messages] from families have come in that say, 'this is the highlight of our week, will you send us more bingo cards?'"

The dinner boxes that Canlis sells also include a flower, a candle and other things to set the ambiance, even a link to livestream the restaurants' piano players, "so you can have the experience with the Canlis dinner."

In lieu of using third-party delivery service apps to communicate orders from consumer to restaurants, Canlis invented a new option with their former reservation platform Tock.

"We called them and said, 'we're trying to hack your reservation system to make it a delivery system, can you guys help?'" Canlis said. The Chicago-based company was also shut down due to the pandemic, but it's CEO "Nick Kokonas called in a team of programmers who worked round the clock for 72 hours" to build the new system that "allows a restaurant to basically be the restaurant and delivery without relying on a third-party carrier to make it a more profitable venture."

Thinking back, Canlis said, "12 weeks ago it was like how do we keep 150 employees working and fine dining is a really inefficient labor model, so it took all of those different ideas to keep everybody employed. But we have not had to lay off a single person."

Although things look "scary and devastating," he highlighted the importance of remembering "the truth, which is that we can do this."

"I think so many people think this is so far from what Canlis used to do, but I think it has been more Canlis than ever in these past few weeks and I feel very much like we're the same company we always were even if our product looks wildly different," he said.

Famed French chef Ludo Lefebvre removed art from the walls of his intimate 26-seat dining room at Michelin-starred Trois Mec after being forced to shut down and tried to think of a way forward.

Even a reinvented service would be a far cry from a thoughtfully curated and exceptionally executed tasting menu experience that high-level chefs and owners worked passionately for decades to cultivate.

"It's like somebody broke up with you. And now I've got to figure out how to create a new relationship with them," Krissy Lefebvre, who helms front-end operations for her husband's Los Angeles group of restaurants, told ABC News.

Now, Trois Mec has flipped the script on its fine-dining approach to instead help with meals that support the philanthropic World Central Kitchen, run by his longtime friend and fellow chef Jose Andres.

"We had a closed Michelin starred restaurant, but it didn't feel right to try to force a to-go program. It will be a long time before we return to pre-COVID life and until then, I feel better about using Trois Mec in a way that can help the community," Krissy Lefebvre said. "[WCK] hired and engaged restaurants all across the country to allow restaurants to keep the lights on and hire some staff to cook good quality meals to people who need it right now."

Krissy Lefebvre said her husband and staff, who chose to come back into the kitchen when they felt comfortable, serve 400 of these family-style meals five days-a-week.

"The Trois Mec menu as of now is non-existent. So it was really sitting down with the staff and figuring out what kind of food that they could produce with the sources they had," she said of the family meals that include "a vegetable, a protein, like chicken and a pasta dish."

Her chef husband and business partner has been in the kitchen since he was 13 years old and said, "all he's been taught is to cook and serve people."

"Ludo doesn't cook tiny tweezer portion food at home," Krissy Lefebvre said with a laugh. "I think you have to kind of go to the other compartment in your brain and kitchen and say, 'let's find the way we feed our family. This is not a special occasion. This is life. This is survival.' And let's give people what they need to survive," she said of the restaurant's thought process behind their new approach.

"On Mother's Day last year we had over 600 reservations at Petit Trois. This year Ludo got up early to cook something like 60 chickens for the to-go menu and he came home and said, 'I almost cried on the line today,'" his wife recalled. "The special occasion moments are just not what it was. He cooks for people he brings food to the table, you see families experiencing it. Now he cooks it and puts it in a box and somebody in a mask and gloves puts it in their trunk."

The chef's wife said, "I think part of the satisfaction for chefs is the reinforcement that you've brought joy to people. So that point of connection has just been cut off."

Asking about the fate of fine dining is a bit of a loaded question with the dynamic health and business ripple effects constantly changing, but Krissy Lefebvre shared a poignant perspective.

"As of today it's dead. But it's not dead forever," she said. "If you look at something like Trois Mec you only have 28 guests maximum and we built Trois Mec so that you felt like you were in the chef's kitchen." But with new social distancing and health restrictions, like seating people six-feet apart and only allowing limited capacity, Krissy Lefebvre said, "it becomes so bare and sanitized that is that the experience that people want?"

Krissy Lefebve argued that "fine dining can't survive at 50% -- it's just a business model," she said.

Although some cities have loosened restrictions for bars and restaurants to reopen, like in San Diego where people can again dine-in, Canlis echoed Lefebvre saying, "it doesn't really work for us or most restaurants that I know to operate with all those restrictions and at 50% capacity."

"We're planning the whole the next stage, which I think will look very different from opening up a fine dining restaurant," he said. "We're just gonna change the restaurant to work for the rules and we're going to open as a completely different restaurant, like a casual crab shack."

The team is preparing to launch a drive-in movie theater concept and will take any next steps in stride with local, state and government health authorities.

While the current plan has "a completely different everything" from uniforms and decor to its menu, Canlis said, "it will be a restaurant built around this economy and these people. Because I still don't think fine dining is what people need right now."

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iStock/courtneykBy: BEATRICE PETERSON, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Even as states across the country begin lifting stay-at-home orders, many businesses are still being forced to rethink how they can attract customers amid ongoing coronavirus fears. For some restaurants, that means the era of closely guarded secret recipes is over.

Instead, they're converting their signature dishes into do-it-yourself kits for patrons to replicate at home, and turning to the internet to create the kind of community their physical spaces once provided.

Before coronavirus, 45% of people nationwide ate out at restaurants multiple times a week, according to Toast, a restaurant and management point-of-sale software company. But as restaurants were forced to close their front-of-house operations and rely solely on delivery and carryout orders, profits have tumbled.

Teatotallar, which made a name for itself by hosting the largest weekly teen drag queen shows in the country, is known for its French macarons and fresh boba tea, a Taiwanese drink that comes with chewy tapioca balls, and became a must-stop for nearly every major 2020 candidate running for president.

But after coronavirus forced the Somersworth, New Hampshire, cafe to close in March, owner Emmett Soldati questioned whether his business could survive.

"As a cafe that has drag shows, our model wasn't built on takeout. You don't get a fancy latte delivered to you, 30 minutes later, in a lukewarm cup." Soldati told ABC News.

Instead of lukewarm latte deliveries, Soldati focused on sales of boba tea, which is served cold. He came up with "door stop boba," allowing customers to order freshly made-to-order tea right to their home.

Shortly thereafter, he started hosting his weekly teen drag shows on Instagram, and that led to yet another business innovation.

Between livestreams, customers would ask for tips on how to replicate their favorite Teatoaller pastries at home. So Soldadi started selling DIY baking kits and offering livestreamed tutorials for beginner and intermediate bakers.

By May, his daily revenue tripled.

Three thousand miles away, another boba tea business found success in a similar way. After being forced to close 10 locations of RareTea across the state of California, owner Tony Lei set out to teach his customers the trick to making fresh boba at home.

He selected his most popular teas and quickly set up an online recipe book. Lei told ABC News simplicity was key: "At the end of the day if your recipes are way too complicated. No one wants to buy for the second time."

Initially, Lei thought his online store would have no more than 20 orders a day, but within weeks he was selling between 100 and 150 kits daily. Lately, he has begun working at 9 a.m. and finishes packing orders with his team of seven people at 11 p.m.

Despite being based in California, Lei says 60% to 70% of his DIY boba kits are shipped to the East Coast. Revenue from the kits, which range from fruit teas to milk teas, have allowed Lei to offset rent at his storefronts and warehouse for now.

In Monterrey, California, the co-owners of Captain Stoker, another niche cafe, are also hoping they can keep their relatively new business afloat by helping others learn to make their own specialty drinks.

For most of their lives, Kelsea Richmond and her fiance, Tyler Ellis, rarely drank coffee. But in 2018, they met another couple that needed help opening and managing a new coffee shop and they took a leap of faith. Three months later they bought the business outright.

The first two years were a challenge, and the couple had to learn about the café business on the fly.

"Neither of us had actually done any of the roasting, but when we took over we had one week to figure out how to roast coffee and somehow we did it," Richmond told ABC News.

The business was thriving enough to employ a staff of 15 by the winter of 2019 and turned a profit for the first time. But just a few short weeks later, coronavirus hit, forcing the couple to close their business to the public, and rely solely on online sales of items like coffee beans, mugs, T-shirts and bandanas.

And for customers craving a caffeine fix, the Captain Stoker website offered them a chance to become at-home baristas. They began selling packets of nitro-sealed coffee in various flavors that are steeped in hot water for four to five minutes to replicate the specialty coffee on their menu. In addition, Captain Stoker started offering a subscription service for customers who wanted their unique whole coffee beans delivered every two weeks.

Captain Stoker and RareTea are among the thousands of California businesses that have slowly reopened their storefronts after the statewide shutdown was lifted. Despite their success converting their businesses to an online-only operations, the owners of both cafes say they stand to make more in their physical location.

"The money we are making [online] is simply on the edge of cutting even every day," Richmond told ABC News. "Because people don't get the experience of a restaurant, it loses its charm."

Back in New Hampshire, Teatotaller is still closed even though the Granite State was among the first to start reopening. Instead, he's doubling down on the business model he was forced to adopt by investing in web design, video and marketing as well as social media.

And while he initially thought closing the café would mean missing out on the special relationships he's able to forge with customers, Soldadi said the virtual community built has, in some ways, been even better.

"What's so interesting is when I'm behind the counter a couple months ago selling you a macaroon, I say, 'Hey, here you go. Enjoy.' I don't know who you are, I don't know what other things you like," he said. "And this has been so wonderful to create personal connections."

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ake1150sb/iStockBY: SAMARA LYNN, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — Mark works for a Denver-area company that handles medical billing. In mid-March, he said he and his co-workers were told they would work from home as per the local stay-at-home COVID-19 mandate. Mark said he was also told by the manager that they had ways of monitoring their time and productivity as they worked from home with a program that had been installed on their work-issued laptops.

While Mark and his co-workers were also monitored while working on-site prior to the novel coronavirus outbreak, remote monitoring is creating some unforeseen issues, he told ABC News.

Since the employees on his team have been working from home, "about four or five people have been terminated" for what he assumes is a lack of production, he said. Because fewer people are going to the doctor, Mark said fewer claims need to be processed, so it's hard for the employees to hit their daily claims quota.

"It can be kind of annoying, especially since we still have a production number to fill," Mark -- a pseudonym he asked to be used out of fear of retaliation -- said. The company has not adjusted its quota during the pandemic, he said.

ABC News could not independently confirm the quota, and the health care system in the Midwest state Mark works in has not responded to a request for comment.

However, in addition to being monitored for productivity, privacy advocates say Mark and the estimated 62% of Americans now working from home during the pandemic, face other concerns as more employers adopt surveillance technology to keep tabs on remote workers. Among some concerns, they say, is the intrusion of monitoring technology into private homes and even into employees' health information.

While revenue numbers and adoption rates of employee monitoring software are hard to secure because the software market leaders are largely private companies that don't readily disclose that data, there is evidence that monitoring software is seeing unprecedented adoption rates since the onset of COVID-19.

One recent business survey from ActivTrak, one of the leading makers of monitoring software found that more than 98% of small and medium-sized business respondents now have a remote workforce and that ensuring productivity is a top concern.

Brad Miller, the CEO and chairman of Awareness Technologies, the parent company of InterGuard, another market leader in employee monitoring software, told ABC News he's seen three to four times growth in the company's customer base since COVID-19's spread in the U.S.

Monitoring technology is not new. This technology has been in use for years in everything from email security systems that log an organization's inbound and outbound email to sensors on delivery trucks that track drivers locations and speeds.

Yet, it is getting more sophisticated with data analytics, cloud platforms and other technology advancements.

Teramind is software that offers several employee monitoring features. As with many monitoring tools, it can be installed without a user even knowing, although the company urges transparency on its website. With Teramind, an employer can monitor emails, applications, instant messages, keystrokes, social media usage and more on an employee's computer. InterGuard allows employers to take screenshots and record activity on an employee's machine in addition to a host of other monitoring capabilities.

"You used to go into the office -- you had a supervisor or manager who could see what time you came in, what time you left, whether you are generally working or not," said Miller.

InterGuard, Miller said, allows employers to "reclaim some visibility" of what an employee does during the workday.

He said most of his customers are using the software "in the context of, 'Can I confirm that you started working at 9, you stopped at 5, and you are generally working in applications like Excel, PowerPoint, Word, email' -- things of that nature."

And of course, with the rise in videoconferencing, employers have virtual access into employees' homes. Many employers are hosting mandatory virtual meetings, which can result in an employee's children and other household members being caught on camera.

Privacy concerns

Many critics of so-called snooping software also call it "tattleware" -- a phrase actually used in the computer security industry since the '90s -- and they say it's raising privacy concerns.

"How much privacy is an employee entitled to in their own home?" said Ifeoma Ajunwa, professor of labor relations, law and history at The ILR School at Cornell University. "A lot of these emerging technologies can seem really useful for employers and, of course, there is an employment interest in monitoring workers, and legally we have to consider that interest as a business interest."

"On the other hand," she added, "we have to weigh that against the employees' interest in maintaining privacy. And unfortunately, the COVID situation actually makes that privacy interest heightened because now the employee is no longer working in the workplace, they're actually working from the home."

Software that records what happens on a computer may be particularly fraught.

If software is "monitoring your screen at any given time" and "you're checking your bank information or opening an email from your doctor" that's sensitive financial or health information that could be recorded, said Alexandra Claudia Mateescu, a researcher at Data & Society, an independent nonprofit research organization that studies social implications of data-centric technologies and automation.

Privacy advocates believe monitoring employee health is likely to ramp up as states begin lifting restrictions on business closures and stay-at-home orders.

One company, LiveSafe, recently launched an app, WorkSafe, that lets businesses track employee health data in real-time. Through the mobile app or a browser, companies can require employees to self-assess their health and then the company can determine if an employee is OK to come into the workplace.

Most customers use WorkSafe to push the self-check assessment questions the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has on its website, said Carolyn Parent, COO of LiveSafe.

"Our whole idea, before people even leave their home: Can we find a way to get them to self-check?" Parent said.

New 'workplace normal' or overreach?

There's some thought that employee surveillance extending into the home and detailed health monitoring may just be part of the "new normal."

Data privacy laws vary by state. California has the most stringent data privacy protection in place. But there are no federal laws directly addressing or limiting employer surveillance of workers according to Ajunwa and her co-authors, Kate Crawford and Jason Schultz, as they reported in a 2017 whitepaper titled "Limitless Worker Surveillance." In it, the authors assert that protection of workers’ privacy is a civil rights issue.

Questions also surround the limits of surveillance. For example, while most employers are mainly interested in monitoring employees during office hours, the nature of surveillance software could allow them to constantly monitor an employee's activity on whatever devices onto which the monitoring software is installed.

Monitoring health data could allow employers to store employee's health information, although Plant said most customers using WorkSafe choose not to do so.

Some say such extensive monitoring is unnecessary.

"Employers are always free to -- and should -- evaluate the work product produced by employees. But you don't have to surveil someone's every move or screenshot their computer every five minutes to do so. That's monitoring the inputs. Monitor the outputs instead, and you'll have a much healthier, saner relationship," David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder of Basecamp, a project management platform, and the creator of the Ruby on Rails web development software, wrote in an email to ABC News.

Employees' right to privacy "is being grossly violated by surveillance applications," Heinemeier Hansson added. "When people feel like they're trusted to do good work, they actually tend to deliver just that. The irony of setting up such invasive surveillance regimes is that it's causing the distrust and motivation to goof off and beat the very systems that were set up to catch such behavior.”

In February, before most Americans knew much about the COVID-19 outbreak, Ajunwa spoke before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor.

During a hearing on "The Future of Work: Protecting Workers’ Civil Rights in the Digital Age," she urged Congress to protect workers' privacy, stating that technology has created a "quantified worker" subject to the whims of an employer.

"Just because the technology exists doesn't mean that it's ethical for you to actually engage with that technology," Ajunwa said.

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Miguel Florencio/ABC NewsBY: AARON FERRER, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — The global impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront the racial disparities in the United States for African-Americans and Hispanics. 

When states imposed stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of coronavirus, only businesses deemed essential could remain open, putting those employees at a higher risk of getting infected. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Blacks and Hispanics make up nearly 25% of the service industry compared to just 16% by their white counterparts.

All 50 states across the U.S. have begun to slowly reopen their economies and in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has begun to ease restrictions regionally. But, New York City has not yet met the criteria to enter phase one of his ‘NY Forward’ plan, leaving businesses considered non-essential like local shop Bronx Native, founded by Amaurys Grullon, closed.

Grullon is a Dominican-American from the Bronx who has felt the effects of the virus both on his business, and in his personal life, starting a GoFund me to help keep the shop alive “We made about 50% of our goal. We made about a little over $10,000 right now. And the community really showed up,” Grullon said on the “Perspective” podcast as part of ABC News' special coverage, Pandemic: A Nation Divided, examining the socioeconomic and racial disparities of the pandemic."

Listen to the rest of this past week’s highlights from the Perspective podcast.

The novel coronavirus has done more than threaten Grullon’s business, it took the life of his father. “It really hit home, it’s really shifted the way I think,” he said. “I was just going to that internally while everything was going on, trying to help Bronx Native. We weren’t able to go visit him, I think that was somewhat hard for me because that was pretty sad.” 

Bronx Native Brand Manager Josue Caceres is a coronavirus survivor. “It was a scary and intense experience. I’m grateful for going through that because it gave me a different view and a different understanding of the things around me and the people around me, and myself."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week the NYPD will no longer enforce the use of masks. According to data released by the Police department, of the nearly 400 summonses handed out to people from March 16th through May 5th, more than 80% of them were black or hispanic. Viral violent encounters between police and citizens also prompted the move. 

Bronx Native now sells masks and Caceres says the shop is doing what it can to help “ A lot of people look to us you know, to see what’s going on in the Bronx or what they should be doing. We try to promote it as much as we can, like the use of masks.”  Grullon added, “Even ways to connect with other organizations so we can be able to give out masks to first responders or to families that maybe don’t have masks."

The Bronx has accounted for more than 3,400 confirmed deaths due to coronavirus, and the highest number of cases, hospitalizations, and death per 100,000 people, more than any other borough.  But Grullon urges unity, “We will continue to fight. Let’s keep our heads up. We’re going to come out stronger, better, smarter as a human race. Let’s continue to stick together as a community and the Bronx will rise again. We got this.”

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Johnny Nunez/WireImageBY: LEIGHTON SCHNEIDER, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — The novel coronavirus forced Mikey Cole to shutdown his ice cream shop, Mikey Like’s It Ice Cream, in March, and like many small business owners he is struggling.  

Cole started his business after spending a few months in jail for dealing drugs and was trying to put his life back together when he found an ice cream recipe from an aunt of his who had recently died. 

Cole spoke to ABC News’ Cheri Preston, host of ABC News’ ‘Perspective Podcast”, about his experience over the past few months and said it’s been tough to see what’s happened to his community. 

“I'm born and raised right here. I come out of my apartment building and I walk two blocks to the store. I [used to] get to say hello to everybody on the street. It's kind of weird. It's a great weirdness because it’s love that the community gives you. I've always prided [myself] on creating this ice cream for the community. It's hard because I can't do what I normally do now,” said Cole on a special edition of the podcast, Pandemic - A Nation Divided.  

Since his stores in Harlem and the East Village closed, they have only been delivering to customers in Manhattan, some that Cole has done personally to show his appreciation to customers, but he is closer to getting back to normal with his shops opening back up this weekend.

Cole tried to apply for a Payment Protection Program loan from the government, but he said the process was too burdensome. 

“A lot of it is the procedures of what they're asking you to have. …The stuff they're asking you for are financial papers from a year ago. Things that take you to dig up. With an accountant you can get the information, but they’re asking for tax records of this year, last year. This isn’t information that you just have sitting under a desk,” said Cole.

He says Harlem has been one of the hardest-hit areas of the city and that everyone should wear a mask when they are out. 

“It's knowing that, consciously, I respect your help. In Harlem some people aren’t doing it. I get upset. I'm like ‘wow I can't get back to making ice cream,’ but then I remember it's about everyone. As long as everyone's safe, there will be a day back when I can make ice cream,” said Cole. 

He hopes the ice cream will put smiles on all his customer’s faces. 

“I stay creative by creating the flavors that gives you a memorable, nostalgic memory for yourself to then put a smile on your face, no matter what's going on around you,” said Cole. 

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ABC NewsBY: ALEX PRESHA, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) — The last two months have been some of the most difficult of Rahama Wright's career.

For 15 years, Wright has run Shea Yeleen, a beauty brand located in Washington, D.C. Birthed out of a passion to empower women in sub-Saharan Africa, her staff of five helps distribute shea butter products. In turn, they provide jobs for 800 women in Ghana. Since the pandemic started, she's had to make drastic changes.

"Now I'm trying figure out how to continue to run the businesses with about 80% of my revenue being slashed," Wright said.

Most of her business comes through sales from her stores – one on H Street and a kiosk at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. She also generated considerable revenue from a partnership with a resort. She's since had to furlough all five of her staff and close her main storefront. She also applied for federal help.

"When I heard about the stimulus package and the government rallying to support small businesses, I immediately started applying," Wright said.

She said a few weeks after her first application, the funding ran out. When Congress replenished the fund, she tried again.

"My strategy was to apply to as many places as I could," Wright told ABC News.

She was in the process of completely shutting down her business until a small bank approved her for a Paycheck Protection Program loan last Friday.

"I 100% feel like I got lucky," Wright said.

She estimates the funding will give her a three to four month runout and allow her to bring back three of her staff members. Her storefront will remain closed as she boosts her online presence.

In the latest round of PPP funding, Congress set aside $30 billion for lenders like community development financial institutions, meant specifically to help low-income and the underbanked. An additional $30 billion was reserved for small banks, which tend to serve the smallest businesses.

The allocation of these PPP funds has been a topic of debate since the program rolled out in early April. Businesses that already had established relationships with banks got approved over others. The program has drawn criticism from lawmakers on both sides who say those that need the funding the most aren't getting it quickly enough, if at all. Thus far, the Small Business Administration has not released detailed data on the businesses receiving these taxpayer funds.

It's been a different story for Marcel Benson. He runs the Benson Watch Company out of Lanham, Maryland. It's a family run business with a handful of contractors.

"Our company has grown about three times" during the pandemic, he said.

He attributes the company's success to being an online business and customers being home shopping more. His growth has been so great he opted not to apply for a PPP loan.

"I just thought about the amount of people that will not be receiving the funds that actually need it," Benson said. "I'm sure there are people who are barely holding on that want to retain their employees. Let's just step back and allow people that need it to get it as much as they can."

While things are good for Benson, he still has COVID-19 concerns. It's impacted his supply chain.

"It's something we're keeping our eye on," Benson said. "We may be sold out before we're able to get a new inventory."

Benson knows how crucial it is to keep momentum. As Wright put it, there's so much riding on the success of businesses like hers and Benson's.

"Businesses like mine absolutely have to survive because we are investing in a world that's making financial inclusion a priority," she said.

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Andrei Stanescu/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(RANDALL, Ohio) -- Another Amazon warehouse worker has died of COVID-19, the company confirmed to ABC News on Friday.

This brings the suspected number of Amazon workers who have died from coronavirus up to eight -- based on media reports -- though the company has not confirmed how many people have contracted the disease or died from it despite mounting pressure for transparency.

"We are saddened by the loss of an associate who had worked at our site in Randall, OH," Rachael Lighty, an Amazon spokesperson, told ABC News in a statement. "Her family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we are supporting her fellow colleagues."

The Amazon associate was last at work on April 30, according to the company. Amazon said it is in the process of updating all employees at the site and offering counseling and support.

"Like most global companies, we’ve had employees affected by this, and we’re doing all that we can to protect our employees and take the proper precautions as stated in WHO guidelines," Lighty said. "We’re continuing to monitor the situation in our facilities, and we are taking proactive measures to protect employees and associates who have been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed or becomes ill."

Lighty added that the company's "top concern is ensuring the health and safety of our employees" and that they expect to invest approximately $4 billion from April to June "on COVID-related initiatives to get products to customers and keep employees safe."

The company said that when a COVID-19 case is confirmed in one of their buildings, they communicate that news to all who work at the site via phone or text not just to those who have come in close contact with the positive case.

Amazon did not respond to an ABC News inquiry over how many employees so far have died from COVID-19, but pressure appears to be building on the company as more deaths are reported in the media.

Earlier this month, a coalition of 13 attorneys general led by Maura Healey of Massachusetts sent a letter to Amazon requesting information on how many workers have been infected and how many have died.

"We have requested but not received information on how many of the Companies' workers have been infected with COVID-19, and how many have died from it. Please provide a state-by-state breakdown for each Company with this information," the letter stated.

Earlier in May, Amazon's head of operations Dave Clark said in an interview with CBS that the total number of workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 "isn't particularly useful" when asked for a figure.

"The actual ... total number of cases isn't particularly useful because it's relative to the size of the building and then the overall community infection rate," Clark told CBS.

"We know," he added, when pressed for the figure. "I don't have the number right on me at this moment because it's not a particularly useful number."

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Courtesy Naeemah SeifullahBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Raymond Copeland took pride in his work and being called one of "New York's strongest."

The New York City Department of Sanitation worker even bought a plaque to display in his car reading "strongest," a nod to the epithet for the city agency, his daughter said.

The 46-year-old, who his daughter described as "hardworking" and "full of dad jokes," also loved to lend his Sanitation Department cap to his two young grandsons.

"He had the greatest sense of humor that was so cringeworthy and very awesome," his daughter, Naeemah Seifullah, told ABC News. "If he cared about you, if he loved you, he would go out of his way to do anything for you."

When the city began to shut down and most people were told to stay at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, Copeland found himself among the grocery store clerks, bus drivers, janitors and more newly-classified "essential" workers who continued to go to work every day.

Copeland died of complications from COVID-19 on April 5, approximately a week after falling ill, Seifullah said.

She said she remembers her father as a hero, saying that he did not stop working "until his body forced him to stop." At least 625 New York City sanitation employees have tested positive for COVID and six have died, according to the Department of Sanitation.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit black and Latino communities across the U.S. with furor, infecting and killing people of color at a disproportionate rate compared to white Americans, according to several states' analysis of data.

Some economists attribute these devastating health outcomes to the disproportionate percentage of minorities who are deemed "essential workers" in this crisis, and being asked to continue coming to work -- potentially exposing themselves and their families to the virus -- while many others are able to work from home.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also pinned the overrepresentation of some racial and ethnic groups among critical workers as a possible contributing factor to the higher rates of infections in those communities.

"The risk of infection may be greater for workers in essential industries who continue to work outside the home despite outbreaks in their communities, including some people who may need to continue working in these jobs because of their economic circumstances," the CDC states on its website in a post breaking down "COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups."

People of color (black, Latino, Asian American and other non-whites) account for 43% of all essential workers in the nation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an analysis of data released earlier this week by the Economic Policy Institute. White Americans still make up a majority of essential workers nationally, according to the data.

While black Americans represent just over 13% of the population according to the Census, black workers encompass 15% of all essential workers in the pandemic, according to the EPI data. Meanwhile, Hispanics or Latinos represent just over 18% of the population, but make up 21% of the essential workforce.

In some places in the U.S., including the epicenter of the outbreak where Copeland worked, New York City, black and Latino workers represent an even greater share of the essential workforce.

In New York City, 75% of all the city's essential workers are people of color, according to a report from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

"It seems like people of color are disproportionately contracting COVID, especially if they are disproportionately working in a sector that is deemed 'essential,'" Margaret Poydock, a policy associate at the EPI who co-authored the analysis, told ABC News.

"I think the occupations and industries that are deemed essential now have always been essential, and obviously in a time of crisis, in this coronavirus pandemic, it is imperative that they do receive workplace protections, such as personal protective equipment," Poydock added.

Andre Perry, author of the book Know Your Price and a fellow at the Brookings Institution whose research focuses on race and economic inclusion, told ABC News that, "We’ve known for a long time that black and brown people are disproportionately are in occupations that require us to leave our houses."

Perry cited a study released early the pandemic, in mid-March, that warned less than one in five black workers and approximately one in six Latino workers are able to telework.

"I was in a conversation with scholars where they debated should they be called 'heroes' or 'hostages,'" Perry said of essential workers in the pandemic. "I think they could be considered both."

"They deserve our credit and our admiration, but it's not like they have a choice here," he added. "Go to work or starve."

Years of structural racism in housing, education and across all industries has contributed to the overrepresentation of minority workers in these typically low-wage "essential" positions in the current pandemic, according to Perry.

The EPI data on essential workers found that half of essential industries have a median hourly wage that is less than the nonessential workforce's median hourly wage.

"Pay only reflects what we feel people are worth," Perry said. "They are essential but they are also replaceable, so it reduces the wages that they will get."

Moreover, Perry said that according to his research, people of color are more likely to live in intergenerational housing, oftentimes with older relatives who may be more at-risk to complications from COVID-19.

The CDC also states that multi-generational households, "which may be more common among some racial and ethnic minority families, may find it difficult to take precautions to protect older family members or isolate those who are sick, if space in the household is limited."

As deaths among essential workers -- especially among people of color -- rise during the pandemic, there have been widespread calls for increased access to PPE, hazard pay, better paid sick leave and more worker protections.

While some improvements have been made, advocates say it is still not enough to protect workers. Frontline and essential worker protections are a keystone part of the Heroes Act that passed in the House last Friday, though the measure is not expected to be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“It’s hard to blame any one person or group of people but we’ve developed a culture in which profit margins are more valued than people," Perry said of why it has been so hard to take care of essential workers.

He added that the heads of corporations that "can make adjustments to pay structure that will enable employees to get better benefits" are the people who "don’t come in contact, don’t interact with essential workers."

Poydock said that labor unions have especially stepped up to the plate to fight for workers in the pandemic.

"The Trump administration has not provided these workers with these essential protections," she said. "Unions have been fighting for these workers to receive these protections."

She added that according to their research, "a union worker on average makes about 12% higher on average than their non-union counterpart."

While Seifullah said it's hard to know what better precautions could have been taken for her father, she thinks these essential workers who are risking their lives just to do their job deserve more.

"These people are putting themselves out there to make sure that our way of life is more comfortable," she said. "I know that they deserve a lot and they are being put at risk."

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Kameleon007/iStockBy LAYNE WINN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Over 38 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits since the coronavirus outbreak began shutting down the United States economy in mid-March. Major companies such as Uber, Airbnb and United Airlines have laid off thousands of workers and retail corporations have been hit particularly hard. Neiman Marcus, J. Crew and J. C. Penney all filed for bankruptcy amid the global pandemic.

While there are many uncertainties surrounding the state of the U.S. economy and the timeframe businesses will resume normal operation, furloughed and laid-off employees have one thing in common: neither are getting paid.

The following questions and answers can help you understand the two forms of unemployment and how to move forward:

What is a furlough?

A furlough is an unpaid leave of absence. Most of the time, furloughs are used for a company that is financially struggling to cut costs for a period hoping to bring the employee back when that period passes.

A layoff is when your relationship with your employer is terminated. If you are laid off, you receive no further compensation or benefits from your employer.

"With a furlough, employees are still active employees on the payroll whereas with a layoff, they're actually separated from the payroll," said Amber Clayton, Knowledge Center director at Society for Human Resource Management.

The hospitality industry has undoubtedly been hit hard with layoffs during the outbreak, but no industry seems to be safe with thousands of layoffs occurring in state and local governments and even among health care workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why would companies furlough instead of layoff workers?

When employers furlough workers, they avoid some administrative processes involved in terminating an employee, according to Clayton.

There's normally no severance package provided with a furlough as with a layoff. Plus, employees are usually more willing to stay engaged with the company if they think there's a chance they can come back to work.

"Employees tend to stay more engaged when furloughed, because they know that this is temporary and that the employer is going to have them come back into their regular positions," Clayton said. "It's less likely that they're going to go and try to find other employment."

How long can you be furloughed?

There is no time limit to a furlough -- it could last a few weeks or even months.

It's best to stay in contact with your employer while furloughed so you are up to date on the company's plans for bringing you back.

Can you keep your health insurance if furloughed?

A benefit of being furloughed rather than laid off is in many cases, you can keep your health insurance with the company as long as you are still making payments.

"Some employers have worked with their health insurance carriers to provide a plan that actually allows for someone to take an unpaid leave of absence and still continue their insurance during that period," Clayton said.

Furloughed workers should always look at their employer's plan to determine whether health insurance can continue.

However, laid-off workers are typically offered Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act benefits, which provides a continuation of coverage for terminated workers. Through COBRA, most people can keep their insurance for up to 18 months. Laid-off employees must apply for COBRA through their state's health plan marketplace.

Can you keep your benefits?

Some companies will allow furloughed workers to keep their benefits, such as vacation or paid time off during their leave of absence.

Some states require employers pay out paid time off to laid-off workers. Any furloughed or laid-off workers should check with their employer to see what they are eligible for.

Regarding a 401(k), if an employee is not receiving a paycheck, they generally wouldn't be able to contribute to their plan. Furloughed workers can increase contributions when they are back at work and should check with their employer to see if they can continue matching contributions during the furlough.

"Employees may decide after they return that they want to increase their contributions to make up for that loss, for those weeks or months they were on furlough or being laid off," Clayton said.

If you are laid off, you have the right to move the money in your 401(k) into an individual retirement account without paying income taxes on it. You will have to coordinate this rollover between your former employer and the mutual fund, bank or brokerage that will oversee your IRA.

Can you collect unemployment?

Both part-time and full-time furloughed workers or those laid off are eligible to collect unemployment benefits in most cases.

In 2019, the national average unemployment payment was $371.88 a week, but because of the coronavirus outbreak and the mass number of workers who have had to file for unemployment, the federal government is adding $600 to weekly benefits until July 31 under the CARES Act.

Each state varies on how to apply for unemployment and how long claimants receive benefits, with a majority of states offering benefits for 26 weeks. However, under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, workers can qualify for an additional 13 weeks of benefits on top of their state coverage.

Sixty-eight percent of unemployed workers are eligible for a weekly benefits check that is higher than their former income, according to a study from the University of Chicago.

Is it guaranteed you will get your job back if you're furloughed?

As the country begins to reopen, there is no guarantee that furloughed workers will be brought back as a company could issue a "reduction in force," said Clayton, leaving the employee permanently laid off.

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