In an unprecedented move, Apple said late Friday it will immediately close all its retail stores outside Greater China in an effort to battle the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The stores will remain closed through March 27.
CEO Tim Cook revealed Apple’s decision to close hundreds of stores late Friday in an open letter-style press release titled “Apple’s COVID-19 response.” He wrote, “This global effort — to protect the most vulnerable, to study this virus, and to care for the sick — requires all of our care, and all of our participation.”
Cook went on to say that the “most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance.” That led to the decision to temporarily close the stores and allow Apple corporate employees outside of Greater China to work remotely.
In place of visiting the Apple Store, Cook said consumers could visit the Apple Online Store. For service and support, customers can check out support.apple.com.
Apple Store response to COVID-19
Apple operates stores in nearly 460 locations across the world outside of China, including about 270 in the United States. The decision to close all its stores serves as a dramatic example of how companies like Apple are moving aggressively to slow the spread of the coronavirus to employees and customers.
Previously, Apple gradually shuttered retail stores temporarily as the COVID-19 coronavirus spread. The company Friday closed its 11 retail stores in Spain. This followed closures of 17 stores throughout Italy on Wednesday.
Apple also canceled Today at Apple sessions at stores in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil late this week. On Friday, reports circulated that an Apple Store employee in Santa Monica, California, tested positive for COVID-19.
The first country to experience Apple Store closures was China, where the COVID-19 outbreak originated. All 42 Apple Stores in China reopened this week after being closed since last month.
In his note, Cook wrote:
“I want to recognize Apple’s family in Greater China. Though the rate of infections has dramatically declined, we know COVID-19’s effects are still being strongly felt. I want to express my deep gratitude to our team in China for their determination and spirit.”
Apple takes other COVID-19 precautions
Cook touched on several other points in his open letter. He noted that Apple committed $15 million worldwide to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Cupertino also will donate $2 for every $1 donated by Apple employees to support COVID-19 response efforts.
Cook additionally wrote that Apple carries out deep cleaning at all its offices. The company will introduce health screenings and temperature checks at offices, too. Apple also adjusted its leave policies to accommodate people being in quarantine, caring for sick loved ones, or dealing with the effects of school closures.
Words of wisdom in a time of need
“There is no mistaking the challenge of this moment,” Cook wrote. “The entire Apple family is indebted to the heroic first responders, doctors, nurses, researchers, public health experts and public servants globally who have given every ounce of their spirit to help the world meet this moment. We do not yet know with certainty when the greatest risk will be behind us.
And yet I have been inspired by the humanity and determination I have seen from all corners of our global community. As President Lincoln said in a time of great adversity: ‘The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.’ That’s always how Apple has chosen to meet big challenges. And it’s how we’ll rise to meet this one, too.”
On Friday, Apple said it would hold its annual Worldwide Developers Conference exclusively online this year. WWDC typically draws more than 6,000 developers to San Jose, California. During the conference, they get a sneak peek at upcoming versions of iOS, macOS and other Apple products. They also participate in special sessions with key Apple employees.